Hospital Duties

Fold away all your bright-tinted dresses,
Turn the key on your jewels today,
And the wealth of your tendril-like tresses
Braid back in a serious way;
No more delicate gloves, no more laces,
No more trifling in boudoir or bower,
But come with your souls in your faces
To meet the stern wants of the hour.

Look around! By the torchlight unsteady
The dead and the dying seem one -
What! Trembling and paling already,
Before your dear mission's begun?
These wounds are more precious than ghastly -
Time presses her lips to each scar,
While she chants of that glory which vastly
Transcends all the horrors of war.

Pause here by this bedside. How mellow
The light showers down on that brow!
Such a brave, brawny visgage, poor fellow!
Some homestead is missing him now!
Some wife shades her eyes in the clearing,
Some mother sits moaning distressed,
While the loved one lies faint but unfearing,
With the enemy's ball in his breast.

Here's another - a lad - a mere stripling,
Picked up in the field almost dead,
With the blood through his sunny hair rippling
From the horrible gash in his head.
They say he was first in the action;
Gay-hearted, quick-headed, and witty:
He fought till he dropped with exhaustion
At the gates of our fair Southern city.

Fought and fell 'neath the guns of that city,
With a spirit transcending his years -
Lift him up in your large-hearted pity,
And wet his pale lips with your tears.
Touch him gently; most sacred the duty
Of dressing that poor shattered hand!
God spare him to rise in his beauty
And battle once more for his land!

Pass on! it is useless to linger
While others are calling your care;
There is need for your delicate finger,
For your womanly sympathy there.
There are sick ones athirst for caressing,
There are dying ones raving at home,
There are wounds to be bound with a blessing,
And shrouds to make ready for some.

They have gathered about you the harvest
Of death in its ghastliest view;
The nearest as well as the furthest
Is there with the traitor and true.
And crowned with your beautiful patience,
Made sunny with love at the heart,
You must balsam the wounds of the nations,
Nor falter nor shrink from your part.

And the lips of the mother will bless you,
And angels, sweet-visaged and pale,
And the little ones run to caress you,
And the wives and the sisters cry hail!
But e'en if you drop down unheeded,
What matter? God's ways are the best;
You have poured out your life where 'twas needed,
And He will take care of the rest.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on May 02, 2023

2:17 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 2,426
Words 454
Stanzas 8
Stanza Lengths 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8

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