Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  In Libby Prison, New Year’s Eve, 1863–64

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Southern States: Richmond, Va.

In Libby Prison, New Year’s Eve, 1863–64

By Frederick A. Bartleson (1833–1864)

’T IS twelve o’clock! Within my prison dreary,

My head upon my hand, sitting so weary,

Scanning the future, musing on the past,

Pondering the fate that here my lot has cast,

The hoarse cry of the sentry on his beat

Wakens the echoes of the silent street,—

“All ’s well!”

Ah! is it so? My fellow-captive sleeping

Where the barred window strictest watch is keeping,

Dreaming of home and wife and prattling child,

Of the sequestered vale, the mountain wild,—

Tell me, when cruel morn shall break again,

Wilt thou repeat the sentinel’s refrain,

“All ’s well!”

And thou, my country! Wounded, pale, and bleeding,

Thy children deaf to a fond mother’s pleading,

Stabbing with cruel hate the nurturing breast

To which their infancy in love was prest,—

Recount thy wrongs, thy many sorrows name,

Then to the nations, if thou canst, proclaim,

“All ’s well!”

But through the clouds the sun is slowly breaking;

Hope from her long deep sleep is re-awaking:

Speed the time, Father! when the bow of peace,

Spanning the gulf, shall bid the tempest cease,

When foemen, clasping each other by the hand,

Shall shout once more, in a united land,

“All ’s well!”