Song to a Confederate

Yankee lad,
A midnight sentry.
On the graveyard watch tonight.
In this bitter autumn campaign
As our Rebels hold ‘em tight.

Fighting sleep,
The soldier’s struggle,
With the lives of troops at stake.
Fighting dampness, all a-shiver.
Singing, just to stay awake.

Perched on bluff,
And silhouetted,
With a chilly moon behind.
Easy target for my Springfield.
Morning sun-up, corpse they’ll find.

But the song
Drifts cross the valley,
In his soothing baritone,
Of a loving, reaching Saviour.
One, by mother’s side, I’d known.

Something of
A calling Jesus;
And a wanderer’s cry for peace;
And one bitter night’s unloading;
And the Spirit’s sweet release.

I had loved
My Mama’s rendering,
But I would not heed the call.
And with years of tramps and camps, since,
I’ve no heart for it at all.

So tonight
Oh foolish Yankee,
I will put the song to rest.
With a careful eye, a long breath
And a bullet through your breast.

Though sited
Down the cold, gray steel,
I cannot make this kill.
My trigger hand’s a-shakin’
And it isn’t from the chill.

Oh, blue-coat boy,
You’re “saved” again
To see the sun’s first rays.
I’ll not have Mama’s ghost, and yours,
To haunt me all my days…

…A million miles
I’ve traveled since.
And countless moons I’ve seen.
A business came, prosperity.
The war seemed but a dream.

One Christmas Eve,
Some long years’ thence,
I chanced to be afloat.
A break from work. A change of scene.
A festive riverboat.

And word got ‘round
The evening’s sport
Would be a talent fair.
“The lights, the song. Oh come along.
We’ve got to see you there.”

The program came.
I went outside.
I’d no love for this day.
And aft, I watched the big wheel churn
Its frigid wake away.

Another year.
Another gain.
By rights a sound success.
But like those waters swirling there,
Inside I was a mess.

Too cold it was.
I joined the throng.
I sat right at the rear.
A special guest, evangelist,
One Ira Sankey, here.

I’d heard the news.
I’d read the press.
His tour of Britain’s halls
With Moody; their effectiveness,
Their skill in Gospel calls.

And after songs
Of Yuletide hope,
This tall man took the stage.
His frame so straight, his dress so fine.
A prince in any age.

And then the voice.
That baritone!
My mother’s song begins.
Not Christmas cheer; the sentry’s here
To call me from my sins!

How’s this, I quake?
It must be so.
I’m here, but by some plan.
Oh Mama dear, I think that
Now I understand the man!

His words so true.
His voice so rich.
God’s presence fills the place.
I’ll leave my night. I see the Son.
I’m saved and by His Grace.

(A life was spared.
A song was sung.
His Christ had seen him through.
I’d heard the song. I’d come along.
And now, his Christ I knew.)


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