Out of the clover and blue-eyed grass He turned them into the river-lane; One after another he let them pass, Then fastened the meadow bars again. Under the willows, and over the hill, He patiently followed their sober pace; The merry whistle for once was still, And something shadowed the sunny face. Only a boy! and his father had said He never could let his youngest go: Two already were lying dead Under the feet of the trampling foe. But after the evening work was done, And the frogs were loud in the meadow swamp, Over his shoulder he slung his gun, And stealthily followed the footpath damp. Across the clover and through the wheat, With resolute heart and purpose grim, Though cold was the dew on his hurrying feet, And the blind bat’s flitting startled him. Thrice since then had the lanes been white, And the orchards sweet with apple-bloom; And now, when the cows came back at night, The feeble father drove them home. For news had come to the lonely farm That three were lying where two had lain; And the old man’s tremulous, palsied arm Could never lean on a son’s again. The summer day grew cool and late. He went for the cows when the work was done; But down the lane, as he opened the gate, He saw them coming one by one, Brindle, Ebony, Speckle, and Bess, Shaking their horns in the evening wind; Cropping the buttercups out of the grass, But who was it following close behind? Loosely swung in the idle air The empty sleeve of army blue; And worn and pale, from the crisping hair, Looked out a face that the father knew. For the Southern prisons will sometimes yawn, And yield their dead unto life again; And the day that comes with a cloudy dawn In golden glory at last may wane. The great tears sprang to their meeting eyes; For the heart must speak when the lips are dumb: And under the silent evening skies Together they followed the cattle home.
- by Kate Putnam Osgood (1841 - 1910) [author's text not yet checked against a primary source]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive):
- by Jennifer Higdon (b. 1960), "Driving home the cows", first performed 2015 [ baritone and piano ], from Civil Words, no. 5 [sung text checked 1 time]
Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
This text was added to the website: 2015-02-14
Line count: 48
Word count: 343