On A Barricade (translated by Henry Carrington)
Upon a barricade, across the streets,
Where blood of criminal and hero meets,
Ta'en with the men, a child of twelve or less!
"Were you one of them--you?" The boy said "Yes."
"Well," said the officer, "Then you'll be shot;
Wait for your turn." The child saw on the spot
All his companions 'neath the wall fall low.
To the officer he cried, "Sir, let me go,
And take this watch to mother, who's at home."
"You wish to 'scape," -- "No! I'll come back." -- "This scum
Are cowards.--Where do you live?"--"There, by the well;
And Captain, I'll return--the trut I tell." --
"Be off, young scamp." The child ran off, and then
At the plain trick laughed officer and men.--
Death's rattle mingling with their laugh was heard;
But the laugh ceased when suddenly appeared
The child, with bloodless cheek but dauntless eye,
ANd, leaning 'gainst the wall, said, "Here am I!"
Death fled ashamed. -- The Captain said "Be free.
Child! -- I know not in storms, where mingled be
All things right, wrong, knave, hero -- in this fray,
What made you take a part:--But this I say,
Your soul, untaught, was yet sublimely great,
Good, brave--who in the very jaws of fate,
First to your mother walked--then to the grave!
Children have candour--men remorse may have.
No fault of yours to march where others led;
But noble, valiant thou! who chose instead
Of safety, life, spring, dawn and boyish play,
The black blank wall where slain thy comrades lay."
From The Terrible Year