William Dean Howells

1837-1920 / United States

The Two Wives

THE COLONEL rode by his picket-line
In the pleasant morning sun,
That glanced from him far off to shine
On the crouching rebel picket’s gun.

From his command the captain strode
Out with a grave salute,
And talked with the colonel as he rode:—
The picket levelled his piece to shoot.

The colonel rode and the captain walked,—
The arm of the picket tired;
Their faces almost touched as they talked,
And, swerved from his aim, the picket fired.

The captain fell at the horse’s feet,
Wounded and hurt to death,
Calling upon a name that was sweet
As God is good, with his dying breath.

And the colonel that leaped from his horse and knelt
To close the eyes so dim,
A high remorse for God’s mercy felt,
Knowing the shot was meant for him.

And he whispered, prayer-like, under his breath,
The name of his own young wife:
For Love, that had made his friend’s peace with Death,
Alone could make his with life.
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