My Friend

[Written by Col. W.S. Hawkins, C.S.A., (Prisoner of war at Camp Chase) a friend of a fellow prisoner who was engaged to be married to a Southern lady.  She proved faithless to him.  The letter arrived soon after his death, and was answered by Col. H. in the following beautiful lines:]

 

Your letter came, but came too late,

For Heaven had claimed its own;

Ah, sudden change! from prison bars,

Unto the Great White Throne.

And yet I think he would have stayed

For one more day of pain,

Could he have read these tardy words

Which you have sent in vain.

 

Why did you wait, fair lady,

Through so many a weary hour?

Had you other lovers with you

In that silken dainty bower?

Did others bow before your charms

And twine bright garland there?

And yet, I ween in all the throng

His spirit had no peer.

 

I wish that you were here by me now

As I draw the sheet aside,

To see how pure the look he wore

Awhile before he died.

And yet the sorrow that you gave him,

Still had left its weary trace,

And a mere and saintly sadness,

Dwells upon his palid face.

 

"Her love", he said, "could only change for me,

This winter's cold to spring;"

Ah, trust of thoughtless maiden's love,

Thou art a bitter thing!

For when those valleys fair, in May,

Once more with bloom shall wave,

The northern violets shall blow

Above his humble grave.

 

Your dole of scanty words had been,

But one more pang to bear;

Though, to the last, he kissed with love,

This tress of your soft hair,

I did not put it where he said;

For when the angels come,

I would not have them find the sign

Of falsehood in the tomb.

 

I've read the letter and I know

The wiles you have wrought,

To win that noble heart of his,

And gained it - fearful thought!-

What lavish wealth men sometimes give

For a trifle, light and small!

What many forms are often held

In Folly's flimsy thrall!

 

You shall not pity him for now

He's past your hope and fear;

Although I wish you could stand

With me beside his bier.

Still, I forgive you; Heaven knows

For mercy you'll have need,

Since God his awful judgment sends

On each unworthy deed.

 

To-night the cold winds whistle by

As I my vigils keep,

Within the prison dead-house where

Few mourners weep.

A rude plank coffin holds him now,

Yet Death gives always grace;

And I would rather see him thus

Than clasped in your embrace.

 

To-night your rooms are very gay,

With wit, and wine, and song;

And you are smiling just as if

You never did a wrong.

Your hand so fair that none would think

It penned these words of pain;

Your skin so white - would God, your soul,

Were half so free of stain.

 

I'd rather be this dear, dear friend,

Than you, in all your glee;

For you are held in grievous bonds,

While he's forever free.

Whom we serve in this life, we serve

In that which is to come;

He chose his way, you yours; let God

Pronounce the fitting doom.

 
 
 
Back to Kentucky Poetry
Back to Kentucky Arts
Back to Table of Contents