(Francis Orray Tickner)
Out of the focal and foremost fire,
Out of the hospital walls as dire,
Smitten of grape-shot and gangrene,
(Eighteenth battle, and he sixteen!)
Spectre! such as you seldom see,
Little Giffen, of Tennessee
“Take him – and welcome!” the surgeons said;
“Little the doctor can help the dead!”
So we took him and brought him where
The balm was sweet in the summer air;
And we laid him down on a wholesome bed –
Utter Lazarus, heel to head!
And we watched the war with abated breath –
Skeleton boy against skeleton death.
Months of torture, how many such!
Weary weeks of the stick and crutch;
And still a glint of the steel-blue eye
Told of a spirit that wouldn’t die,
And didn’t. Nay, more! in death’s despite
The crippled skeleton learned to write.
“Dear Mother,” at first, of course; and then
“Dear Captain,” inquiring about the men.
Captain’s answer: “Of eighty and five,
Giffen and I are left alive.”
Word of gloom from the war, one day;
“Johnston pressed at the front, they say.”
Little Giffen was up and away;
A tear – his first – as he bade good-by,
Dimmed the glint of his steel-blue eye.
“I’ll write, if spared!” There was news of the fight;
But none of Giffen. He did not write.
I sometimes fancy that, were I king
Of the princely knights of the Golden Ring,
With the song of the minstrel in mine ear,
And the tender legend that trembles here,
I’d give the best on his bended knee,
The whitest soul of my chivalry,
For Little Giffen, of Tennessee.
I loved the simplicity of the poem. It was so quick and easy to understand. I love poems that rhyme and this one did that very elegantly. This poem is really good at representing the theme of war. It shows us that the victims of war are not always the old jaded soldiers, but the young, lively soldiers who hadn’t even begun their lives. The sadness and realism in the poem is how it represents the theme of war.