In a southern forest gloomy and old,This poem was written on Christmas Eve 1862 and appeared in The Poughkeepsie Telegraph on December 27, 1862.
So lately the scene of a terrible fight,
A soldier, alone in the dark and cold,
Is keeping the watch tonight.
As he paces his round he sees the light
Of his comrades' campfire, gleaming far,
Through the dusky wood, and one bright star
Looks down with a twinkle of light and love
From the frosty sky that bends above.
Large, clear and bright in the far off skies
It twinkles and glimmers there alone
Like the blessed Bethlehem star that shone
On the sheperd's wondering eyes.
As he watches it slowly, sweetly rise
His heart is touched by its gentle ray.
And away, away,
His thoughts on the wings of fancy stray,
He forgets the night with its frosty air,
And cheerless blast, that every where
Moans loud through the branches black and bare,
He is thinking now of the little band
In his boyhood home, whose faces bright
Are beaming with happiness as they stand
Round the Christmas tree tonight,
And he seems to join with the happy throng
In each innocent game and mirthful song.
Ah! vision as bright as fairy land!
Like a broken dream, it will not stay,
He raises his weather-beaten hand
And dashes a tear away,
And he feels anew, all his terrible lot -
Exposed to the pestilence, snow and rain,
Enduring fatigue, and fever and pain.
And standing each day to be shot -
And all for what?
For what does he give his strength and life
in the deadly strife?
To defend the home where the loved ones are
From the fire and sword and the ravage of war,
To defend his home and the land of his birth,
To pride of the earth,
And solemnly sworn
To avenge her flag, by the traitors torn,
Of its ancient glory shamefully shorn.
Such thoughts through the soldiers mind have passed.
He feels no longer the chilling blast,
The driving sleet or the frozen ground.
For his blood is beating fiercly and fast
As he quickens his round.
He pines no longer for home and rest --
A patriot's spirit has warmed his breast.