LITTLE GIFFEN by Francis Orray Ticknor (1822-1874)

Out of the focal and foremost fire, Out of the hospital walls as dire, Smitten of grapeshot and gangrene, (Eighteenth battle and he sixteen) -- Specter! such as you seldom see, Little Giffen of Tennessee. "Take him and welcome," the surgeon said; Little the doctor can help the dead! So we took him, and brought him where The balm was sweet in the summer air; And we laid him down on a wholesome bed -- Utter Lazarus, heel to head! And we watched the war with abated breath, Skeleton boy against skeleton death! Months of torture, how many such? Weary weeks of the stick and crutch; And still a glint in the steel-blue eye Told of a 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, Giffen and I are left alive." Word of gloom from the war, one day; Johnston pressed at the front, they say; -- Little Giffen was up and away! A tear, his first, as he bade good-by, Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye. "I'll write, if spared!" There was news of fight, But none of Giffen -- he did not write! I sometimes fancy that were I 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 Giffen" of Tennessee.

Soldier Life

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Last modified 18-April-2001