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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX. 1876–79.

Alma, the River

By the Alma River

By Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)

WILLIE, fold your little hands;

Let it drop, that “soldier” toy:

Look where father’s picture stands,—

Father, who here kissed his boy

Not two months since,—father kind,

Who this night may—Never mind

Mother’s sob, my Willie dear;

Call aloud that He may hear

Who is God of battles; say,

“O, keep father safe this day

By the Alma River.”

Ask no more, child. Never heed

Either Russ or Frank or Turk,

Right of nations or of creed,

Chance-poised victory’s bloody work:

Any flag i’ the wind may roll

On thy heights, Sebastopol;

Willie, all to you and me

Is that spot, where’er it be,

Where he stands—no other word!

Stands—God sure the child’s prayer heard—

By the Alma River.

Willie, listen to the bells

Ringing through the town to-day.

That ’s for victory. Ah, no knells

For the many swept away,—

Hundreds—thousands! Let us weep,

We who need not,—just to keep

Reason steady in my brain

Till the morning comes again,

Till the third dread morning tell

Who they were that fought and fell

By the Alma River.

Come, we ’ll lay us down, my child,

Poor the bed is, poor and hard;

Yet thy father, far exiled,

Sleeps upon the open sward,

Dreaming of us two at home;

Or beneath the starry dome

Digs out trenches in the dark,

Where he buries—Willie, mark—

Where he buries those who died

Fighting bravely at his side

By the Alma River.

Willie, Willie, go to sleep,

God will keep us, O my boy;

He will make the dull hours creep

Faster, and send news of joy,

When I need not shrink to meet

Those dread placards in the street,

Which for weeks will ghastly stare

In some eyes—Child, say thy prayer

Once again; a different one:

Say, “O God, Thy will be done

By the Alma River.”