In War Time

Kate Seymour Maclean

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Into the west the day goes down,
Smiling and fading into the night,
Is it a cross, or is it a crown
I have worn through all these hours of light!

Bending over my milk-white curds,
In my dairy under the beech,
Still the thought of my heart took words,
And murmured itself in musical speech.

And all my pans of golden cream,
Set in a silver shining row,
Swam in my eyes like the shimmer and sheen
Of arms and banners, and martial show.

The bee in his gold laced uniform,
Drilled the ranks of clover blooms,
And carried my very heart by storm,
Mocking the roll of the distant drums.

But something choked my singing down,
Deeper than any song expressed.--
Is it a cross, or is it a crown
On my brow invisibly pressed!

Out of the east the star-watch shines,
Lighting their camp-fires in the gray;
I count their white tents' lengthening lines,
And think of those who are far away.

Where the yellow globes of the orange grow
In the southern fields-that slope to the sun,--
Oh say, have my brothers met the foe,--
Has another Shiloh been lost or won?

For when the moonlight falls across
The threshold of our cottage door.
My heart is full of a sense of loss,
As if they would return no more.

Last year when the April days were fair,
And the harvest fields were ploughed and sown,
Two stalwart boys took each his share,
But now our father toils alone.

And often at our evening prayers,
With an absence I can understand,
I see him look at the vacant chairs,
And wipe his brow with his wrinkled hand.

And therefore at the fireside nook,
Kneeling sadly at night to pray,
All the light of the holy book
Seems to fall and point one way.

And therefore tending my milk-white curds,
Still the song that my fancy hums,
Catches the glitter of martial words,
And sets itself to the beat of drums.

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