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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Hero of the Commune

By Margaret Junkin Preston (1820–1897)

[Born in Milton, Penn., 1820. Died in Baltimore, Md., 1897. Cartoons. 1875.—Colonial Ballads, etc. 1887.]

GARÇON! You—you

Snared along with this cursèd crew?

(Only a child, and yet so bold,

Scarcely as much as ten years old!)

Do you hear? do you know

Why the gendarmes put you there, in the row,

You, with those Commune wretches tall,

With your face to the wall?”

“Know? To be sure I know! why not?

We’re here to be shot;

And there, by the pillar, ’s the very spot,

Fighting for France, my father fell:

Ah, well!

That’s just the way I would choose to fall,

With my back to the wall!”

(“Sacré! Fair, open fight, I say,

Is something right gallant in its way,

And fine for warming the blood; but who

Wants wolfish work like this to do?

Bah! ’tis a butcher’s business!) How?

(The boy is beckoning to me now:

I knew that his poor child’s heart would fail,

…. Yet his cheek’s not pale:)

Quick! say your say, for don’t you see,

When the Church-clock yonder tolls out Three,

You’re all to be shot?

…. What?

‘Excuse you one moment’? O, ho, ho!

Do you think to fool a gendarme so?”

“But, sir, here’s a watch that a friend, one day

(My father’s friend), just over the way,

Lent me; and if you’ll let me free,

—It still lacks seven minutes of Three,

I’ll come, on the word of a soldier’s son,

Straight back into line, when my errand’s done.”

“Ha, ha! No doubt of it! Off! Begone!

(Now, good Saint Denis, speed him on!

The work will be easier since he’s saved;

For I hardly see how I could have braved

The ardor of that innocent eye,

As he stood and heard,

While I gave the word,

Dooming him like a dog to die.”)

“In time! Well, thanks, that my desire

Was granted; and now, I am ready:—Fire!

One word!—that’s all!

—You’ll let me turn my back to the wall?”

“Parbleu! Come out of the line, I say,

Come out! (who said that his name was Ney?)

Ha! France will hear of him yet one day!”