|Alas! the rolling hours pass slow—|
The night is very dark and still—
And in the marshes, far below,
Is heard the lonely whippoorwill:
I scarce can see a foot ahead—
My ears are strained to catch each sound—
I feel the leaves beneath me spread—
And the springs bubbling thro’ the ground.
Along the beaten path I pace,
Where white rays mark my sentry’s track;
In formless things I seem to trace
The foeman’s form, with bended back—
I think I see him crouching low!
I stop and list—I stop and peer—
Until the neighb’ring hillocks grow
To groups of soldiers, far and near.
With ready piece I wait, and watch,
Until my eyes—familiar grown—
Detect each harmless earthern notch,
And turn “Guerrillas” into stone;
And then amid the lonely gloom,
Beneath the tall magnolia trees,
My silent marches I resume,
And think of other times than these.
“Halt! who goes there?” my challenge cry—
It rings along the watchful line—
“Relief!” I hear a voice reply—
“Advance and give the countersign!”
With bayonet at the charge, I wait—
The corporal gives the mystic word—
With “arms aport” I change my mate,
Then onward pass, and all is well!
But in my tent, that night, awake,
I ask, “If in the fray I fall,
Can I the mystic answer make,
When the angelic sentries call?”
And pray that Heaven so ordain,
Where’er I go, what fate be mine,
Whether in pleasure or in pain
I still may have the “Countersign!”