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The Old Major Explains


(RE-UNION, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, 12TH MAY, 1871)




Well, you see, the fact is, Colonel, I don't know as I can come:
For the farm is not half planted, and there's work to do at home;
And my leg is getting troublesome,--it laid me up last fall,--
And the doctors, they have cut and hacked, and never found the ball.

And then, for an old man like me, it's not exactly right,
This kind o' playing soldier with no enemy in sight.
"The Union,"--that was well enough way up to '66;
But this "Re-Union," maybe now it's mixed with politics?

No? Well, you understand it best; but then, you see, my lad,
I'm deacon now, and some might think that the example's bad.
And week from next is Conference. . . . You said the twelfth of May?
Why, that's the day we broke their line at Spottsylvan-i-a!

Hot work; eh, Colonel, wasn't it? Ye mind that narrow front:
They called it the "Death-Angle"! Well, well, my lad, we won't
Fight that old battle over now: I only meant to say
I really can't engage to come upon the twelfth of May.

How's Thompson? What! will he be there? Well, now I want to know!
The first man in the rebel works! they called him "Swearing Joe."
A wild young fellow, sir, I fear the rascal was; but then--
Well, short of heaven, there wa'n't a place he dursn't lead his men.

And Dick, you say, is coming too. And Billy? ah! it's true
We buried him at Gettysburg: I mind the spot; do you?
A little field below the hill,--it must be green this May;
Perhaps that's why the fields about bring him to me to-day.

Well, well, excuse me, Colonel! but there are some things that drop
The tail-board out one's feelings; and the only way's to stop.
So they want to see the old man; ah, the rascals! do they, eh?
Well, I've business down in Boston about the twelfth of May.



Bret Harte

I: National

II: Spanish Idyls and Legends

III: In Dialect

IV: Miscellaneous

V: Parodies

VI: Songs Without Sense

VII: Little Posterity

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