BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
[These lines was writ, in ruther high sperits, jest at
the close of what's called the Anti Bellum Days, and
more to be a-foolin' than anything else,--though they
is more er less facts in it. But some of the boys, at
the time we was all a-singin' it, fer Ezry's benefit,
to the old tune of "The Oak and the Ash and the Bonny
Willer Tree," got it struck off in the weekly, without
leave er lisence of mine; and so sence they's allus
some of 'em left to rigg me about it yit, I might as
well claim the thing right here and now, so here goes.
I give it jest as it appeard, fixed up and grammatisized
consider'ble, as the editer told me he took the liburty
of doin', in that sturling old home paper THE ADVANCE--as
sound a paper yit to-day and as stanch and abul as
you'll find in a hunderd.]
Come listen, good people, while a story I do tell,
Of the sad fate of one which I knew so passing well;
He enlisted at McCordsville, to battle in the South,
And protect his country's union; his name was Ezra House.
He was a young school-teacher, and educated high
In regards to Ray's arithmetic, and also Alegbra:
He give good satisfaction, but at his country's call
He dropped his position, his Alegbra and all.
"It's oh, I'm going to leave you, kind scholars," he said--
For he wrote a composition the last day and read;
And it brought many tears in the eyes of the school,
To say nothing of his sweetheart he was going to leave so soon.
"I have many recollections to take with me away,
Of the merry transpirations in the school-room so gay;
And of all that's past and gone I will never regret
I went to serve my country at the first of the outset!"
He was a good penman, and the lines that he wrote
On that sad occasion was too fine for me to quote,--
For I was there and heard it, and I ever will recall
It brought the happy tears to the eyes of us all.
And when he left, his sweetheart she fainted away,
And said she could never forget the sad day
When her lover so noble, and gallant and gay,
Said "Fare you well, my true love!" and went marching away.
But he hadn't been gone for more than two months,
When the sad news come--"he was in a skirmish once,
And a cruel rebel ball had wounded him full sore
In the region of the chin, through the canteen he wore."
But his health recruited up, and his wounds they got well;
But whilst he was in battle at Bull Run or Malvern Hill,
The news come again, so sorrowful to hear--
"A sliver from a bombshell cut off his right ear."
But he stuck to the boys, and it's often he would write,
That "he wasn't afraid for his country to fight."
But oh, had he returned on a furlough, I believe
He would not, to-day, have such cause to grieve.
For in another battle--the name I never heard--
He was guarding the wagons when an accident occurred,--
A comrade, who was under the influence of drink,
Shot him with a musket through the right cheek, I think.
But his dear life was spared; but it hadn't been for long,
Till a cruel rebel colonel came riding along,
And struck him with his sword, as many do suppose,
For his cap-rim was cut off, and also his nose.
But Providence, who watches o'er the noble and the brave,
Snatched him once more from the jaws of the grave;
And just a little while before the close of the war,
He sent his picture home to his girl away so far.
And she fell into decline, and she wrote in reply,
"She had seen his face again and was ready to die";
And she wanted him to promise, when she was in her tomb,
He would only visit that by the light of the moon.
But he never returned at the close of the war,
And the boys that got back said he hadn't the heart;
But he got a position in a powder-mill, and said
He hoped to meet the doom that his country denied.