by Thaddeus Oliver (1826 - 1864)

All quiet along the Potomac to‑night
Language: English 
"All quiet along the Potomac to-night!"
Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot as he walks on his beat, to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.

'Tis nothing! A private or two now and then
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost! Only one of the men
Moaning out all alone, the death rattle.

All quiet along the Potomac to-night!
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
And their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
And the light of their camp-fires are gleaming.

A tremulous sigh, as a gentle night-wind
Through the forest leaves slowly is creeping;
While the stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
Keep guard o’er the army while sleeping.

There's only the sound of the line sentry's tread,
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And thinks of the two in the low trundle bed,
Far away, in the cot on the mountain.

His musket falls slack, and his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep,
And their mother – “may heaven defend her!”

The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then -
That night when the love, yet unspoken,
Leaped up to his lips, and when low-murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken.

Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling;
And gathers his gun closer up to his breast,
As if to keep down the heart’s swelling.

He passes the fountain, the blasted pine-tree,
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Towards the shades of the forest so dreary.

Hark! Was it the night wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looks like a rifle: "Ah! Mary, good-bye!"
And the life-blood is ebbing and splashing.

“All quiet along the Potomac to-night!”
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead,
And the picket's off duty forever!

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2015-02-14
Line count: 44
Word count: 352