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Battle Bunny

(MALVERN HILL, 1864)


"After the men were ordered to lie down, a white rabbit, which had been hopping hither and thither over the field swept by grape and musketry, took refuge among the skirmishers, in the breast of a corporal."--Report of the Battle of Malvern Hill.


Bunny, lying in the grass,
Saw the shining column pass;
Saw the starry banner fly,
Saw the chargers fret and fume,
Saw the flapping hat and plume,--
Saw them with his moist and shy
Most unspeculative eye,
Thinking only, in the dew,
That it was a fine review.

Till a flash, not all of steel, Where the rolling caissons wheel, Brought a rumble and a roar Rolling down that velvet floor, And like blows of autumn flail Sharply threshed the iron hail.

Bunny, thrilled by unknown fears, Raised his soft and pointed ears, Mumbled his prehensile lip, Quivered his pulsating hip, As the sharp vindictive yell Rose above the screaming shell; Thought the world and all its men,-- All the charging squadrons meant,-- All were rabbit-hunters then, All to capture him intent. Bunny was not much to blame: Wiser folk have thought the same,-- Wiser folk who think they spy Every ill begins with "I."

Wildly panting here and there, Bunny sought the freer air, Till he hopped below the hill, And saw, lying close and still, Men with muskets in their hands. (Never Bunny understands That hypocrisy of sleep, In the vigils grim they keep, As recumbent on that spot They elude the level shot.)

One--a grave and quiet man, Thinking of his wife and child Far beyond the Rapidan, Where the Androscoggin smiled-- Felt the little rabbit creep, Nestling by his arm and side, Wakened from strategic sleep, To that soft appeal replied, Drew him to his blackened breast, And--But you have guessed the rest.

Softly o'er that chosen pair Omnipresent Love and Care Drew a mightier Hand and Arm, Shielding them from every harm; Right and left the bullets waved, Saved the saviour for the saved.

* * * * *

Who believes that equal grace God extends in every place, Little difference he scans Twixt a rabbit's God and man's.


Bret Harte

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