By Dr. Francis O. Ticknor.
“A ballad of such unique and really transcendent merit, that in our
judgment it ought to rank with the rarest gems of modern martial
poetry.”—P. H. Hayne.
|Out of the focal and foremost fire,|
Out of the hospital walls as dire,
Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene,
(Eighteenth battle, and he sixteen!)
Specter such as we seldom see,
Little Giffin of Tennessee!
“Take him and welcome!” the surgeon said:
“Much your doctor can help the dead!”
And so we took him and brought him where,
The balm was sweet on the summer air;
And we laid him down on a wholesome bed—
Utter Lazarus, heel to head!
Weary War with the bated breath,
Skeleton boy against skeleton Death,
Months of torture, how many such!
Weary weeks of the stick and crutch!
Still a glint in the steel-blue eye,
Spoke of the spirit that wouldn’t die.
And didn’t! nay more! in death’s despite,
The crippled skeleton learned to write!
“Dear mother,” at first, of course, and then,
“Dear Captain” inquiring about the “men,”
Captain’s answer—“Of eighty and five,
Giffin and I are left alive!”
“Johnston’s pressed at the front, they say!”
Little Giffin was up and away.
A tear, his first, as he bade good-bye,
Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye;
“I’ll write, if spared.” There was news of a fight,
But none of Giffin! he did not write!
I sometimes fancy that were I a king
Of the princely knights of the Golden Ring,
With the song of the minstrel in mine ear,
And the tender legend that trembles here,
I’d give the best on his bended knee,
The whitest soul of my chivalry,
For little Giffin of Tennessee!