Once upon a time, I was studying the Civil War. Many of the accounts of the battles stuck with me. I personally have grandparents (however many generations ago) that fought on both sides of the war--many Americans do. Most of my family fought for the Confederacy--well, "for Virginia, and these Confederate States"-- but I have a healthy smattering of "them d#$% Yankees," as well. Some battles list family members, by name, that met each other on either side of the battlefield. As I was pondering the 'real story' behind the war--the personal courage, the families torn apart by death and violent disagreement, the loyalty and fierce patriotism experienced by members of both armies, the death and misery and destruction of those on the battlefield--I wrote this poem. It came into my head as lyrics, sung to the tune of "O, Holy Night," which, for those of us familiar with the original song, lends a hauntingly ironic quality to the latter stanzas.
It is not clear to me whether this is one man speaking, multiple men speaking, or what side they are on. It is not even clear to me, as the author, whether the speaker lives or dies. Perhaps the last stanza is a dying man, metaphorically waving the flag of those for whom he was fighting. Or, perhaps he is the sole survivor of his unit, proudly flying the colors as the opposing army leaves in victory, leaving him to cry for the brothers and friends dead and dying around him. Perhaps.
I don't know.
I don't know that it matters.
May we remember the fallen heroes. May we not get so caught up in politics and policies that we forget the real stories, the real people, the real sacrifice and pain and loyalty and courage that the sons and daughters of God experience in the face of such conflict.
A Soldier’s Recollection Sabina Safsten
Intended to be sung to the tune of “O Holy Night”
The mists of the rain fall gently o’er the clearing
blind to the fear and the sadness of war
The night- it has gone, the dawn is swiftly nearing
I wait with dread– what does the day have in store?
The bugle sounds, it breaks through dismal darkness
as brethren rise to greet the fateful morn
Oh, if I die, remember me, my brother
Remember, and do not mourn when I am gone– oh, do not mourn
The corporal arises, we wait- intense, courageous-
We calm our fears with sincerest of prayers.
Long are the shadows and great the expectation--
I see the sun and shield my face from its glare.
Blue or Grey- the enfilading gunfire
knew naught but death as it tore along its way
Truly it was through the valley of the shadow
of Death we plunged that hellish day
Forward we run- the enemy is shielded
by mists and trenches with head-logs above.
Headless of danger, my heart and ears are pounding
I feel the pain as a shell rips my side
The shell and shot around the men are flying
and all around lay the dying and the dead
O’er across the field, I see the foe assembling
“March on, boys!” he cried as all around my brethren died
The battle is o’er, the valiant men have fallen
all wait for dawn, when we’ll again resume the fight
Thousands of wounded anguished brethren calling
As I lay still through the fearful, miserable night
The foe retreats, I hold aloft the colors
I stand as tears flow for the brothers gone
Onward, and on, the battle-cry of freedom
Forever carries on if we remember those who’ve gone
Our freedom will live on, and on if we remember brave ones gone