All Quiet along the Potomac and other poems/Our Folks


HI! Harry Holly! Halt! and tell
A fellow just a thing or two;
You've had a furlough—been to see
How all the folks in Jersey do.
It's months agone since I was there—
I, and a bullet from Fair Oaks.
When you were home, old comrade, say,
Did you see any of our folks?

"You did? Shake hands. Oh, ain't I glad?
For if I do look grim and rough,
I've got some feelin'.
People think

A soldier's heart is mighty tough;

But, Harry, when the bullets fly,
And hot saltpetre flames and smokes,
While whole battalions lie afield,
One's apt to think about his folks.
"And so you saw them? When? and where?
The old man—is he lively yet?
And mother—does she fade at all,
Or does she seem to pine and fret
For me? And Sis—has she grown tall?
And did you see her friend—you know
That Annie Moss?
(How this pipe chokes!)
Where did you see her? Tell me, Hal,
A lot of news about our folks.

"You saw them in the church, you say;
It's likely, for they're always there."
"Not Sunday." "No? A fun'ral? Who?
Why, Harry, how you shake and stare!
'All well,' you say, and all were out.
What ails you, Hal? Is this a hoax?
Why don't you tell me, like a man,
What is the matter with our folks?"

"I said all well, old comrade, true;
I say all well, for He knows best
Who takes the young ones in his arms
Before the sun goes to the west.
The axe-man Death deals right and left,
And flowers fall as well as oaks;

And so—fair Annie blooms no more!
And that's the matter with your folks.

"See, this long curl was kept for you;
And this white blossom from her breast;
And here, your sister Bessie wrote
A letter telling all the rest.
Bear up, old friend."
Nobody speaks;
Only the old camp-raven croaks,
And soldiers whisper: "Boys, be still;
There's some bad news from Granger's folks."

He turns his back (the only foe
That ever saw it) on this grief,
And, as men will, keeps down the tears
Kind Nature sends to Woe's relief.
Then answers he: "Ay, Hal, I'll try;
But in my throat there's something chokes,
Because, you see, I've thought so long
To count her in among our folks.

"I s'pose she must be happy now,
But still I will keep thinking too
I could have kept all trouble off
By being tender, kind, and true.
But maybe not.
She's safe up there;
And when the Hand deals other strokes,
She'll stand by heaven's gate, I know,
And wait to welcome in our folks."