(William Dean Howells)

The Two Wives

THE COLONEL rode by his picket-line
  In the pleasant morning sun,
That glanced from him far off to shine
  On the crouching rebel pickets gun.

From his command the captain strode        
  Out with a grave salute,
And talked with the colonel as he rode:
  The picket levelled his piece to shoot.

The colonel rode and the captain walked,
  The arm of the picket tired;        
Their faces almost touched as they talked,
  And, swerved from his aim, the picket fired.

The captain fell at the horses feet,
  Wounded and hurt to death,
Calling upon a name that was sweet        
  As God is good, with his dying breath.

And the colonel that leaped from his horse and knelt
  To close the eyes so dim,
A high remorse for Gods mercy felt,
  Knowing the shot was meant for him.        

And he whispered, prayer-like, under his breath,
  The name of his own young wife:
For Love, that had made his friends peace with Death,
  Alone could make his with life.

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