James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

December 25

Christmas Night of ’62

By W. Gordon McCabe (1841–1920)

(In the Army of Northern Virginia)

THE WINTRY blast goes wailing by,

The snow is falling overhead;

I hear the lonely sentry’s tread,

And distant watch-fires light the sky.

Dim forms go flitting through the gloom;

The soldiers cluster ’round the blaze,

To talk of other Christmas days,

And softly speak of home and home.

My sabre swinging overhead

Gleams in the watch-fire’s fitful glow,

While fiercely drives the blinding snow,

And memory leads me to the dead.

My thoughts go wandering to and fro,

Vibrating ’twixt the Now and Then;

I see the low-brow’d home agen,

The old hall wreathed with mistletoe.

And sweetly from the far-off years

Comes borne the laughter faint and low,

The voices of the Long Ago!

My eyes are wet with tender tears.

I feel agen the mother-kiss,

I see agen the glad surprise

That lightened up the tranquil eyes

And brimmed them o’er with tears of bliss.

As, rushing from the old hall-door,

She fondly clasp’d her wayward boy—

Her face all radiant with the joy

She felt to see him home once more.

My sabre swinging on the bough

Gleams in the watch-fire’s fitful glow,

While fiercely drives the blinding snow

Aslant upon my sadden’d brow.

Those cherished faces all are gone!

Asleep within the quiet graves

Where lies the snow in drifting waves,—

And I am sitting here alone.

There’s not a comrade here to-night

But knows that lov’d ones far away

On bended knees this night will pray:

“God bring our darling from the fight.”

But there are none to wish me back,

For me no yearning prayers arise,

The lips are mute and closed the eyes—

My home is in the bivouac.