YOUR LETTER, LADY, CAME TOO LATE by Colonel William S. Hawkins

Your letter, lady, came too late, For Heaven had claimed its own. Ah, sudden change! From prison bars Unto the Great White Throne! And yet, I think he would have stayed To live for his disdain, Could he have read the careless words Which you have sent in vain. So full of patience did he wait Through many a weary hour, That o'er his simple soldier faith Not even death had power. And you -- did others whisper low Their homage in your ear, As though among their shadowy throng His spirit had a peer. I would that you were by me now, To draw the sheet aside, And see how pure the look he wore The moment when he died. The sorrow that you gave him Had left its weary trace, As 'twere the shadow of the cross Upon his pallid face. "Her love," he said, "could change for me The winter's cold to spring." Ah, trust of fickle maiden's love, Thou art a bitter thing! For when these valleys bright in May Once more with blossoms wave, The northern violets shall blow Above his humble grave. Your dole of scanty words had been But one more pang to bear, For him who kissed unto the last Your tress of golden hair. I did not put it where he said, For when the angels come I would not have them find the sign Of falsehood in the tomb. I've seen your letter and I know The wiles that you have wrought To win that noble heart of his, And gained it -- cruel thought! What lavish wealth men sometimes give For what is worthless all: What manly bosoms beat for them In folly's falsest thrall. You shall not pity him, for now His sorrow has an end, Yet would that you could stand with me Beside my fallen friend. And I forgive you for his sake As he -- if it be given -- May even be pleading grace for you Before the court of heaven. Tonight the cold wind whistles by As I my vigil keep Within the prison dead house, where Few mourners come to weep. A rude plank coffin holds his form, Yet death exalts his face And I would rather see him thus Than clasped in your embrace. Tonight your home may shine with lights And ring with merry song, And you be smiling as if your soul Had done no deadly wrong. Your hand so fair that none would think It penned these words of pain; Your skin so white -- would God your heart Were half as free from stain. I'd rather be my comrade dead, Than you in life supreme: For yours the sinner's waking dread, And his the martyr's dream. Whom serve we in this life, we serve In that which is to come: He chose his way, you yours; let God Pronounce the fitting doom.

Soldier Life

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Last modified 18-April-2001