Sydney Dobbell (1824-1874)

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The Army Surgeon

Over that breathing waste of friends and foes,
The wounded and the dying, hour by hour,
In will a thousand, yet but one in power,
He labours through the red and groaning day.
The fearful moorland where the myriads lay
Moves as a moving field of mangled worms:
And as a raw brood, orphaned in the storms,
Thrust up their heads if the wind bend a spray
Above them, but when the bare branch performs
No sweet paternal office, sink away
With helpless chirp of woe,--so, as he goes,
Around his feet in clamorous agony
They rise and fall; and all the seething plain
Bubbles a cauldron vast of many-coloured pain.

The Common Grave

Last night beneath the foreign stars I stood,
And saw the thoughts of those at home go by
To the great grave upon the hill of blood.
Upon the darkness they went visibly,
Each in the vesture of its own distress.
Among them there came One, frail as a sigh,
And like a creature of the wilderness
Dug with her bleeding hands. She neither cried
Nor wept; nor did she see the many stark
And dead that lay unburied at her side.
All night she toiled; and at that time of dawn,
When Day and Night do change their More and Less,
And Day is more, I saw the melting Dark
Stir to the last, and knew she laboured on.

Home: In War-Time

She turned the fair page with her fairer hand--
More fair and frail than it was wont to be;
O'er each remember'd thing he loved to see
She lingered, and as with a fairy's wand
Enchanted it to order. Oft she fanned
New motes into the sun; and as a bee
Sings through a brake of bells, so murmured she,
And so her patient love did understand
The reliquary room. Upon the sill
She fed his favourite bird. "Ah, Robin, sing!
He loves thee." Then she touches a sweet string
Of soft recall, and towards the Eastern hill
Smiles all her soul--
                            for him who cannot hear
The raven croaking at his carrion ear.