By the Alma River

Dinah Craik


WILLIE, fold your little hands;

        Let it drop, that “soldier” toy:

  Look where father’s picture stands,—

        Father, who here kissed his boy

  Not two months since,—father kind,

  Who this night may—  Never mind

  Mother’s sob, my Willie dear;

  Call aloud that He may hear

  Who is God of battles; say,

  “O, keep father safe this day

        By the Alma River.”


  Ask no more, child. Never heed

        Either Russ or Frank or Turk,

  Right of nations or of creed,

        Chance-poised victory’s bloody work:

  Any flag i’ the wind may roll

  On thy heights, Sebastopol;

  Willie, all to you and me

  Is that spot, where’er it be,

Where he stands—no other word!

Stands—God sure the child’s prayer heard—

        By the Alma River.


  Willie, listen to the bells

        Ringing through the town to-day.

  That ’s for victory. Ah, no knells

        For the many swept away,—

  Hundreds—thousands! Let us weep,

  We who need not,—just to keep

  Reason steady in my brain

  Till the morning comes again,

  Till the third dread morning tell

  Who they were that fought and fell

        By the Alma River.


  Come, we ’ll lay us down, my child,

        Poor the bed is, poor and hard;

  Yet thy father, far exiled,

        Sleeps upon the open sward,

  Dreaming of us two at home;

  Or beneath the starry dome

  Digs out trenches in the dark,

  Where he buries—Willie, mark—

  Where he buries those who died

  Fighting bravely at his side

        By the Alma River.


  Willie, Willie, go to sleep,

        God will keep us, O my boy;

  He will make the dull hours creep

        Faster, and send news of joy,

  When I need not shrink to meet

  Those dread placards in the street,

  Which for weeks will ghastly stare

  In some eyes—Child, say thy prayer

  Once again; a different one:

  Say, “O God, Thy will be done

        By the Alma River.”