A sunken road and a wall of stone
And Cobb's grim line of grey
Lay still at the base of Marye's hill
On the morn of a winter's day.
And crowning the frowning crest above
Sleep Alexander's guns,
While gleaming fair in the sunlit air
The Rappahannock runs.
On the plains below, the blue lines glow,
And the bugle rings out clear,
As with bated breath they march to death
And a soldier's honored bier.
For the slumbering guns awake to life
And the screaming shell and ball
From the front and flanks crash through the ranks
And leave them where they fall.
And the grey stone wall is ringed with fire
And the pitiless leaden hail
Drives back the foe to the plains below,
Shattered and crippled and frail.
Again and again a new line forms
And the gallant charge is made,
And again and again they fall like grain
In the sweep of the reaper's blade.
And then from out of the battle smoke,
There falls on the lead swept air,
From the whitening lips that are ready to die
The piteous moan and the plaintive cry
For "Water" everywhere.
And into the presence of Kershaw brave,
There comes a fair faced lad,
With quivering lips, as his cap he tips,
"I can't stand this," he said.
"Stand what?" the general sternly said,
As he looked on the field of slaughter;
"To see those poor boys dying out there,
With no one to help them, no one to care
And crying for 'Water! Water!'
"If you'll let me go, I'll give them some."
"Why, boy, you're simply mad;
They'll kill you as soon as you scale the wall
In this terrible storm of shell and ball,"
The general kindly said.
"Please let me go," the lad replied.
"May the Lord protect you, then,"
And over the wall in the hissing air,
He carried comfort to grim despair,
And balm to the stricken men.
And as he straightened the mangled limbs
On their earthen bed of pain,
The whitening lips all eagerly quaffed
From the canteen's mouth the cooling draught
And blessed him again and again.
Like Daniel of old in the lions' den,
He walked through the murderous air,
With never a breath of the leaden storm
To touch or to tear his grey clad form,
For the hand of God was there.
And I am sure in the Book of Gold,
Where the blessèd Angel writes
The names that are blest of God and men,
He wrote that day with his shining pen,
Then smiled and lovingly wrote again
"The Angel of Marye's Heights."