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Alas, for the bright promise of our youth!

How soon the golden chords of hope are broken,

How soon we find that dreams we trusted most

Are very shadows.

'TWAS a sweet summer morn,--the lark had just

Sprang from the clover bower around her nest,

And poured her blithe song to the clouds; the sun

Shed his first crimson o'er the dark grey walls

Of the old church, and stained the sparkling panes

Of ivy-covered windows. The damp grass,

That waved in wild luxuriance round the graves,

Was white with dew, but early steps had been

And left a fresh green trace round yonder tomb:

'Twas a plain stone, but graven with a name

That many stopped to read--a Soldier's name--

And two were kneeling by it, one who had

Been weeping; she was widow to the brave,

Upon whose quiet bed her tears were falling.

From off her cheek the rose of youth had fled,

But beauty still was there, that softened grief,

Whose bitterness is gone, but which was felt

Too deeply for forgetfulness; her look,

Fraught with high feelings and intelligence,

And such as might beseem the Roman dame

Whose children died for liberty, was made

More soft and touching by the patient smile

Which piety had given the unearthly brow,

Which Guido draws when he would form a saint

Whose hopes are fixed on Heaven, but who has yet

Some earthly feelings binding them to life.

Her arm was leant upon a graceful youth,

The hope, the comfort of her widowhood;

He was departing from her, and she led

The youthful soldier to his father's tomb--

As in the visible presence of the dead

She gave her farewell blessing; and her voice

Lost its so tremulous accents as she bade

Her child tread in that father's steps, and told

How brave, how honoured he had been. But when

She did entreat him to remember all

Her hopes were centered in him, that he was

The stay of her declining years, that he

Might be the happiness of her old age,

Or bring her down with sorrow to the grave,

Her words grew inarticulate, and sobs

Alone found utterance; and he whose cheek

Was flushed with eagerness, whose ardent eye

Gave animated promise of the fame

That would be his, whose early already rang

With the loud trumpet's war song, felt these dreams

Fade for a moment, and almost renounced

The fields he panted for, since they must cost

Such tears as these. The churchyard left, they


Down by a hawthorn hedge, where the sweet May

Had showered its white luxuriance, intermixed

With crimson clusters of the wilding rose,

And linked with honeysuckle. O'er the path

Many an ancient oak and stately elm

Spread its green canopy. How EDWARD'S eye

Lingered on each familiar sight, as if

Even to things inanimate he would bid

A last farewell! They reached the cottage gate;

His horse stood ready; many, too, were there,

Who came to say Good-by, and kindly wish

To the young soldier health and happiness.

It is a sweet, albeit most painful, feeling

To know we are regretted. "Farewell" said

And oft repeated, one last wild embrace

Given to his pale mother, who stood there,

Her cold hands prest upon a brow as cold,

In all the bursting heart's full agony--

One last last kiss--he sprang upon his horse,

And urged his utmost speed with spur and rein.

He is past . . . out of sight. . . .

The muffled drum is rolling, and the low

Notes of the death-march float upon the wind,

And stately steps are pacing round that square

With slow and measured tread; but every brow

Is darkened with emotion, and stern eyes,

That looked unshrinking on the face of death,

When met in battle, are now moist with tears.

The silent ring is formed, and in the midst

Stands the Deserter! Can this be the same,

The young, the gallant EDWARD? and are these

The laurels promised in his early dreams?

Those fettered hands, this doom of open shame!

Alas, for young and passionate spirits! Soon

False lights will dazzle. He had madly joined

The rebel banner! Oh 'twas pride to link

His fate with ERIN'S patriot few, to fight

For liberty or the grave! But he was now

A prisoner; yet there he stood, as firm

As though his feet were not upon the tomb:

His cheek was pale as marble, and as cold;

But his lip trembled not, and his dark eyes

Glanced proudly round. But when they bared

his breast

For the death-shot, and took a portrait thence,

He clenched his hands, and gasped, and one deep sob

Of agony burst from him; and he hid

His face awhile--his mother's look was there.

He could not steel his soul when he recalled

The bitterness of her despair. It passed--

That moment of wild anguish; he knelt down;

That sunbeam shed its glory over one,

Young, proud, and brave, nerved in deep energy;

The next fell over cold and bloody clay. . . .

There is a deep-voiced sound from yonder vale

Which ill accords with the sweet music made

By the light birds nestling by those green elms,

And a strange contrast to the blossomed thorns.

Dark plumes are waving, and a silent hearse

Is winding through that lane. They told it bore

A widow, who died of a broken heart:

Her child, her soul's last treasure,--he had been

Shot for desertion!