Two Aprils.

That night I sat dreamily knitting,
In the pitiless spring-time rain;
While my needles were brightly flashing
My heart was with Charlie again;
Tender and true as I saw him last,
As he uttered his parting word
In the winding lane where young leaves grow,
And only the violets heard.
We were to have wedded in April –
That April, whose scintillant flame
Flashed into blossoms, red, white, and blue,
That covered the past from our blame.
But among the first my Charlie went
To follow that flag to the wars –
A soldier’s garb o’er a soldier’s heart,
To fight for the stripes and stars.
He left me: and I – I was patient;
His dear letters came one by one;
He was well, and loved me ever, he said,
And he wished that the war was done,
“But still we must fight to the last,” he said,
“For, darling, our land must be free –
Free and united; and so don’t weep,
If the land shall have need of me.”
Months passed, and the words of my hero
Were still hopeful, and fond, and brave,
Whether he spoke of a glad return,
Or pictured a soldier’s grave.
So the battle news found me dreaming
To the sound of the April rain.
A victory, was it? I hardly cared;
I thought of the thousands slain
Night after night I looked down the lists –
I was searching for Charlie’s name:
But Heaven was merciful, and at last
The letter I had longed for came.
He was safe, because of my love, he said,
And my eyes at the words grew dim;
He felt that the balls were turned aside
By the strength of my prayers for him.
Many had fallen close to his side,
But the sun shone again, he said.
‘Tis pitiful for the sun to shine,
When those we loved truly are dead.
I have no words my gladness to tell,
And it is by this bliss I know
The bitter vigil that others keep,
The agony of their woe.
“Still,” wrote my Charlie, “be brave and strong;
Wait, darling, and hope still, and pray
For victory first, and then for me,
And our beautiful wedding day.”

Title:Two Aprils.


Publication:Preston Guardian

Published in:

Date:October 4th 1862

Keywords:patriotism, war


This poem, republished from the New York-based Knickerbocker magazine, is in the voice of a young woman waiting for her fiancé to return from fighting for the Union in the American Civil War. It is both romantic and patriotic, especially in its last stanza, when the soldier urges his lover in letters to pray ‘for victory first, and then for me’. There was an exceptional fascination with Civil War narratives in the north of England, as they fed into the constant stream of news of the conflict from across the ocean, but also were tangentially connected to the fate of the regional cotton industry, and ordinary people’s attitudes to how they should weather its depressed state. – SR