Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


Killed at the Ford

HE is dead, the beautiful youth,

The heart of honor, the tongue of truth,

He, the life and light of us all,

Whose voice was blithe as a bugle-call,

Whom all eyes followed with one consent,

The cheer of whose laugh, and whose pleasant word,

Hushed all murmurs of discontent.

Only last night, as we rode along,

Down the dark of the mountain gap,

To visit the picket-guard at the ford,

Little dreaming of any mishap,

He was humming the words of some old song:

“Two red roses he had on his cap

And another he bore at the point of his sword.”

Sudden and swift a whistling ball

Came out of a wood, and the voice was still;

Something I heard in the darkness fall,

And for a moment my blood grew chill;

I spake in a whisper, as he who speaks

In a room where some one is lying dead;

But he made no answer to what I said.

We lifted him up to his saddle again,

And through the mire and the mist and the rain

Carried him back to the silent camp,

And laid him as if asleep on his bed;

And I saw by the light of the surgeon’s lamp

Two white roses upon his cheeks,

And one, just over his heart, blood-red!

And I saw in a vision how far and fleet

That fatal bullet went speeding forth,

Till it reached a town in the distant North,

Till it reached a house in a sunny street,

Till it reached a heart that ceased to beat

Without a murmur, without a cry;

And a bell was tolled, in that far-off town,

For one who had passed from cross to crown,

And the neighbors wondered that she should die.