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Only a Private
by Margaret Junkin Preston
(1820 - 1897)

  Only a private—and who will care
     When I may pass away,
Or how, or why I perish, or where
     I mix with the common clay?
They will fill my empty place again
     With another as bold and brave;
And they'll blot me out ere the autumn rain
     Has freshened my nameless grave.

Only a private—it matters not
     That I did my duty well,
That all through a score of battles I fought,
     And then, like a soldier, I fell.
The country I died for will never heed
     My unrequited claim;
And History cannot record the deed,
     For she never has heard my name.

Only a private—and yet I know
     When I heard the rallying-call
I was one of the first to go,
     And...I'm one of the many who fall:
But as here I lie, it is sweet to feel
     That my honor's without a stain,—
That I only fought for my country's weal,
     And not for glory or gain.

Only a private—yet He who reads
     Through the guises of the heart,
Looks not at the splendor of the deeds,
     But the way we do our part;
And when He shall take us by the hand,
     And our small service own,
There'll a glorious band of privates stand
     As victors around the throne!
Trooper Meditating beside a Grave, by Winslow Homer

"Trooper Meditating beside a Grave,"
by Winslow Homer, 1865.


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