The Aged Stranger (Audio Poem)

Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902) was well known for his humorous verse and tales of California mining life. He also wrote both serious and humorous poetry about the Civil War.

Harte spent much of the Civil War as Secretary of the California Mint, which allowed him ample time to devote to writing. He became nationally famous after the Civil War when he published “The Luck of Roaring Camp” in 1868.

Here is one of his humorous looks at “an incident of the War” we found in The Photographic History of the Civil War …: Poetry and Eloquence of Blue and Gray. We matched it up with an excellent audio reading by David Lawrence (read for Librivox.org. Click on the little arrow on the side of the title or the title itself to play it.

The Aged Stranger
An Incident of the War

“I was with Grant”–the stranger said;
Said the farmer, “Say no more,
But rest thee here at my cottage porch,
For thy feet are weary and sore.”

“I was with Grant”–the stranger said;
Said the farmer, “Nay, no more,–
I prithee sit at my frugal board,
And eat of my humble store.

“How fares my boy,–my soldier boy,
Of the old Ninth Army Corps?
I warrant he bore him gallantly
In the smoke and the battle’s roar!”

“I know him not,” said the aged man,
“And, as I remarked before,
I was with Grant”– “Nay, nay, I know,”
Said the farmer, “say no more:

“He fell in battle,–I see, alas!
Thou’dst smooth these tidings o’er,–
Nay, speak the truth, whatever it be,
Though it rend my bosom’s core.

“How fell he? With his face to the foe,
Upholding the flag he bore?
Oh, say not that my boy disgraced
The uniform that he wore!”

“I cannot tell,” said the aged man,
“And should have remarked before.
That I was with Grant,–in Illinois,–
Some three years before the war.”

Then the farmer spake him never a word,
But beat with his fist full sore
That aged man who had worked for Grant
Some three years before the war.

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