Menella Bute Smedley

Ampola

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Twenty-five shots!
And, out of all the spots
Where a man could stand and shoot,
You would have said, “Not there.”
Anywhere else it might be done,
But not there!
If we could plant a gun
There, at the battery's foot,
There, at the enemy's breast,
Of course the Fort were won;
But that's a grim jest,
The old tale of a rest
For a lever to lift the sun—
A thing not to be done.

Under that rushing rain of flame,
To stand still, and aim—?
Fie! send them not!
There is no man alive
Could fire a single shot.
But Italy found a pair
To stand JUST THERE,
And fire twenty-five.

See, the gun's in its place!
Through rags of smoke, in the ring of your glass,
You may see a busy face,
Or a quiet figure pass
Hard at work, and so near
You almost fancy you hear.
One loads, one fires—that's all!
(All but the hope and the fear.)
Now they look up and smile,
If they had a minute to spare
They would stop and shake hands there;
Italy, give them a cheer,
And get ready to charge, for while
You look, there's a breach in the wall.

The gap grows large.
Not wide enough yet for a charge,
But nearly—they work with a will!
One, he is but a boy,
Has such a look of joy;
The other, a year or two older,
A little grave and still,
But not a whit colder,
Like a man who knows
What he leaves, and where he goes,
With ready heart;
Why not?
He has done his part.
He was on Marsala's shore;
If he must leave the land he frees,
Love goes with him under the sod;
He gives a gallant soul to God,
And Garibaldi sees,—
He wants no more.
That's the tenth shot!

The blast
Of the shells rushing past

Is shaking their hair—
On they work, and God takes care—
Death not in, it is the air!

Twenty! The wall gives way.
The two look back to their ranks,
And nod, and say,
“Excuse us for making you wait so long!
You are getting ready? Thanks!
In a minute you may come.”
They are quite at home,
Not a fold in the brow—
They are getting used to it now;
We are afraid no more!
Twenty-four.

Twenty-five. Is anything wrong?
Take the glass and look!
What do you say that you see?
Nothing—? Your hand shook;
Pass it to me!
Twenty-five—ere I fix,
It will be twenty-six.
Now! There's the gun.

But the place is void.
What lies on the plain?
Do not look again!
Dead, shattered, destroyed!
With their work done.
All but the name lost,
All dead but the deed;
So, and at such cost,
Ampola was freed.

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Menella Bute Smedley