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Edward Rowland Sill (Эдвард Роулэнд Силл)


One Touch of Nature


CRUEL and wild the battle:
Great horses plunged and reared,
And through dust-cloud and smoke-cloud,
Blood-red with sunset's angry flush,
You heard the gun-shots rattle,
And, 'mid hoof-tramp and rush,
The shrieks of women speared.

For it was Russ and Turkomen,—
No quarter asked or given;
A whirl of frenzied hate and death
Across the desert driven.
Look! the half-naked horde gives way,
Fleeing frantic without breath,
Or hope, or will; and on behind
The troopers storm, in blood-thirst blind,
While, like a dreadful fountain-play,
The swords flash up, and fall, and slay—
Wives, grandsires, baby brows and gray,
Groan after groan, yell upon yell—
Are men but fiends, and is earth hell?

Nay, for out of the flight and fear
Spurs a Russian cuirassier;
In his arms a child he bears.
Her little foot bleeds; stern she stares
Back at the ruin of her race.
The small hurt creature sheds no tear,
Nor utters cry; but clinging still
To this one arm that does not kill,
She stares back with her baby face.

Apart, fenced round with ruined gear,
The hurrying horseman finds a space,
Where, with face crouched upon her knee,
A woman cowers. You see him stoop
And reach the child down tenderly,
Then dash away to join his troop.

How came one pulse of pity there—
One heart that would not slay, but save—
In all that Christ-forgotten sight?
Was there, far north by Neva's wave,
Some Russian girl in sleep-robes white,
Making her peaceful evening prayer,
That Heaven's great mercy 'neath its care
Would keep and cover him to-night?



Edward Rowland Sill's other poems:
  1. Summer Night
  2. Summer Rain
  3. Hermione
  4. A Child and a Star
  5. The Oracle


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