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Poems by Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers, Orange County, New York

All Quiet Along The Potomac

“All quiet along the Potomac,” they say,
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 tonight,
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming; Their tents in the rays of the clear Autumn moon,
Or the light of the watch fires, are gleaming. A tremulous sigh, as the gent: night wind
‘Through the forest leaves softly is creeping; While stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
Keep guard, for the army is sleeping.

There’s only the sound of the lone sentry’s tread,
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain, And he thinks of the two in the low trundle bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain.
His musket falls slack; his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep,
For 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, 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 its place,
As if to keep down the heart 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,
‘Toward the shades of the forest so dreary.
Hark ! Was it the night wind that rustled the leaves
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?

It looked like a rifle: “Ha! Mary, good-by!” And the lifeblood is ebbing and plashing. All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead, The picket’s off duty forever.

Orange County, New York
Memorial Day
(By Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers)

     (The following poem, written by Mrs. Beers, was read by Henry Bacon at the Memorial Day exercises at Goshen, May 30, 1870, and published in the Independent Republican on June 2, 1870.)

Whisper softly, stainless lilies,
As you fold each snowy cup,
Over soldiers who are sleeping
With their war tents folded up.
Bear to them our loving message,
In thy sweet, unwritten speech,
Chime, white bells, above them softly
Echoes only angels teach.
Tell them, roses, as you wither,
Tho’ their dust shall heed you not,
Still, by song, and flag, and blossom,
We would prove them un-forgot.
Show them, pansy’s purple shadow,
Through thy heart of golden bloom,
How the light of deeds heroic
Overlies the darkened tomb.
Passion Flow’r with mystic meaning,
Lordly, banned fleur-de-lis,
Mignonette, and pale narcissus,
Soldier dust, we give to thee.
Myrtle crown, and laurel chaplet,
Fragrant things that bloom and die,
These, oh camp of silent sleepers,
Over ev’ry outpost lie.
These, we leave with loving message,
Crowns, the faithful earth will keep,
While the sacred dust of heroes
Still she softly holds, asleep.

Given, Not Hired

We hire the roof above our heads, And walls to gird us round,
The garden walk, the drooping vine, The rose, and blossom mound;
But, oh that streak of sunset sky Between the budding trees,
The moonlight on the little porch, Whom shall we pay for these?
We have musicians, too, all day, Whose flutes we did not bring;
An Oriole trills all the while, And saucy Robins sing,
While in the brush of Evergreen A Catbird, gray and shy,
A solo gives. Who pays the birds For all these songs? Not I.
Just when the twilight turns to dusk, And reveries are sweet,
A piping voice, exceeding small,
Sounds by my idle feet,
And bids me listen to its tale
Of home and household fire
Our cricket that we did not bring,
The song we did not hire.
The Summer wind that lifts the leaves, To whisper soft and low
How Roses and Syringas Bloom,
How sweet Acacias blow,
With memories of childhood’s hours In garden pathways sweet
Who sends the South wind to my door, With soft, un-shodden feet?

Nay, these are gifts one cannot buy, Nor pay in market gold;
One debt un-cancelled evermore When cycles shall have rolled.
So lifting up a thankful heart To God, who gives, I cry,
“Thou knowest, Lord, I cannot pay For all these things; not I.”

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