Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Giffen

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;
 "Not the doctor can help the deadl"
 So we took him and brought him where
 The balm was sweet in our 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 Captainl" inquiring about the men.
 Captain's answer: "Of eighty and five,
 Giffen and I are left alive."
 "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 courtly Knights of Arthur's ring,
 With the voice 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.

Francis Orray Ticknor

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