The Widow: A War Song

" Stand, Watchman, on the Castle height,
And southward gaze for me,
Beyond the day, across the night,
And say — What dost thou see?"
" I see the clouds of battle lower,
Our hosts flock forth to slay! ...
The Widow, in her Palace bower,
Stood listening, old and gray.

" Oh, Watchman, is it well with those
Who 'neath my banners stand,
Whose swords are drawn to smite my foes
In yonder far-off Land?"
" Lady, their camps are red with blood,
Their kinsmen's and their own ...
As pale as Death the Widow stood,
Sad-hearted and alone.

" Oh, Watchman, look again and hark,
What dost thou hear and see?"
" I hear a sobbing in the dark
Of widow'd souls like thee, —
I hear a sound that drowns in tears
The War-cry far away!"
That sound of sorrow in her ears,
The Widow knelt to pray.

" Oh, Watchman, gaze across the night
And watch my hosts again,
For surely troops of Angels bright
Are hovering round the slain?"
" Angels of Death in raiment red
Pass, but in wrath divine!"
The Widow moaned, " God help the Dead,
And loving hearts like mine!"

" Oh, Watchman, seek the night afar
For Him, our God and Lord, —
Among those thunder-clouds of War
Doth He not wield the sword?"
" Lady, indeed I see Him there,
But bow'd in woe like thee!"
The Widow, moaning in despair,
Pray'd still on bended knee.

" Oh, look again! doth He not stay
To crown my glorious Dead?"
" Lady, He rather turns away
To bless the widow's bread,
To dry the weeping children's eyes.
Throughout the stricken Lands!"
Her gaze uplifted to the skies,
The Widow wrung her hands.

" Oh, Watchman, doth He speak no word,
To be our strength and guide?"
" Nay! — for the hand that draws the Sword
Must cast the Sword aside!
Thy Master is the Prince of Peace,
But holds no soul in thrall, —
'Tis theirs to bid the tempest cease
Who prayed that it should fall!"

" Oh, Watchman, mark my sons once more!
Do they not pause and kneel?"
" Lady, thy legions trample o'er
The necks beneath their heel;
They cry for Him, thy Lord, to bless
Their bloody loss and gain!"
She sobbed, " Christ, help the fatherless!"
And wrung her hands again,

" Oh look and see, more near,"
The weeping Widow said,
" How fare the men who loosen'd here
Those storms of wrath and dread,
Who swore to me that Christ our Lord
Would bless the Dream and Deed?"
" Lady, around the laden board
They feast, while thousands bleed!"

" My curse," she cried, " for evermore
On those false Chiefs and vain
Who drew by night across my door
The crimson cross of Cain!"
" Lady, from land to land there runs
The sob of broken hearts,
While the brave life-blood of thy sons
Is priced in yonder marts!"

The royal Widow rose her height,
" My path is dark," she said,
" I prayed the Lord to lend me Light,
He sends me Death instead!"
" Lady, when men forsake their Lord
His Light is ne'er their guide;
Only the hand that draws the sword
Can cast the sword aside."
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