Only a Soldier by Major Lamar Fontaine

“Only a soldier!” I heard them say,
With a heavy heart I turned away,
And heaved a sigh.
Then watched the tramp of the horses’ feet,
As the hearse moved slowly down the street,
And hot tears dimmed my eye.

“Only a soldier!” confined in there—
A father’s joy and a mother’s care,
Torn from his home.
Now a maiden sighs for his return,
On his sister’s cheek the teardrops burn,
For her soldier-brother’s gone.

“Only a soldier!” I thought anew,
As fancy came, and I quickly drew
“The parting hour,”
That hour he left at his country’s call,
To place himself as a living wall,
Where sterner men might cower.

In dreams he’d seen friends kneeling down
To raise his head from the battle-ground,
And thus he’d say:
“Tell my father that fighting I fell,
’Mid hammering shot and screaming shell,
When the South had won the day.”

Alas! he never had dreamed of death,
But as borne on whistling bullets’ breath,
’Mid muskets flashing;
And where the war-dogs howling loud,
Breathe with sulphur-smoke a battle cloud—
The shells with thunders crashing!

But a fevered cot is his battle-ground,
And slowly, calmly in death he’s bound
To the “Far-off-Land.”
No gentle sister’s spirit is there,
E’en in stranger’s form with tender care,
To bathe his dry burning hand.

The dark sod hides the form of the dead,
Dew-drops kiss no more that pale forehead,
Nor gleam on his hair.
Life’s hope is gone! Life’s sorrowing o’er,
His spirit is on the “echoless shore,”
Dwelling with angels up there.

Thus unwept, unmourned, he sank to rest,
E’en by human sympathy unblest,
To an unknown grave!
God, who notes e’en the sparrow’s fall,
Shall, in the dread resurrection, call
To Heaven the soldier brave!