The Soldier's Return
The Scots Magazine, LXVI (April 1804), p. 297
The wars for many a month were o'er,
E'er I could reach my native shed;
My friends ne'er hop'd to see me more,
But wept for me as for the dead.
As I drew nigh, the cottage blaz'd;
The ev'ning fire was clear and bright;
And through the window long I gaz'd,
And saw each friend with dear delight.
My father in his corner sat,
My mother drew her useful thread,
My brothers strove to make them chat,
My sisters bak'd the household bread:
And Jean oft whisper'd to a friend,
That still let fall a silent tear:
But soon my Jessy's grief shall end—
She little thinks her Harry's near.
My mother saw her catching sighs,
And hid her face behind the rock;
While tears swam round in all their eyes,
And not a single word was spoke.
What could I do?—If in I went,
Surprize might chill each tender heart;
Some story, then, I must invent,
And act the poor maim'd soldier's part.
I drew a bandage o'er my face,
And crooked up a lying knee,
And found that e'en in that blest place
Not one dear friend knew ought of me.
I ventur'd in—Tray wagg'd his tail,
And fawn'd—and to my mother ran:
"Come here," they cry'd; "what can he ail!"
While my feign'd story I began.
I chang'd my voice to that of age,
"A poor old soldier lodgings crave:"
The very name their loves engage—
"A soldier! aye, the best we have."
My father then drew in a seat,
"You're welcome," with a sigh, he said:
My mother fry'd her best hung meat,
And curds and cheese the table spread.
"I had a son," my father sigh'd,
"A soldier, too; but he is gone!"
"Have you heard from him?" I reply'd;
"I left behind me many a one:—
"And many a message I have brought
"To families I cannot find;
"Long for John Goodman's have I sought,
"To tell them Hall's not far behind."
"O! does he live?" my father cry'd,
My mother did not stay to speak;
My Jessy now I silent ey'd,
Who throbb'd as if her heart would break.
"He lives indeed!—this 'kerchief see,
"At parting his dear Jessy gave;
"He sent it her, with love, by me,
"To shew he yet escapes the grave."
An arrow, darting from a bow,
Could not more quick the token reach:
The patch from off my face I drew,
And gave my voice its well-known speech.
"My Jessy, dear!" I softly said:
She gaz'd, and answer'd with a sigh:
My sisters look'd as half-afraid;
My mother fainted quite for joy.
My father danced round his son;
My brothers shook my hand away;
My mother said, Her glass might run,
She car'd not now how soon that day.
"Hout, woman!" cry 'd my father dear,
"A wedding first I'm sure we'll have:
"I warrant we'll live this hundred year—
"Nay, may be, lass, escape the grave."