Friday, February 11, 2022

To My Wife -- A Civil War Poem from a Blessed Soldier far from Home

 At midnight, on my lonely beat,
    When darkness veils the wood and lea,
A vision seems my view to greet,
    Of one at home who prays for me.
Picture from a Civil War envelope

The roses bloom upon her check;
    Her form seems to me like a dream;
And on her face, so fair and meek,
    A host of holy beauties gleam.

For softly shines her flaxen hair;
    A smile is ever on her face;
And the mild, lustrous light of prayer
    Around her sheds a moonlike grace.

She prays for me, that's far away --
    The soldier in his lonely fight;
And asks that God in mercy may
    Shield the loved one and bless the right.

Until, though leagues may lie between,
    The silent incense of her heart
Steals o'er my soul with breath serene,
    And we no longer are apart.

So, guarding thus my lonely beat,
    'Mid darkening wood and dreary lea,
That vision seems my view to great,
    Of her at home who prays for me.

“Written by Joseph McArdle, Company F 163d New York Volunteers.  For some years First Assistant Chief of the Kansas City Fire department, and noted for his bravery and zeal in the discharge of duty.  He died a little over a year ago [Feb.21, 1893] from the effects of pneumonia, contracted while fighting a disastrous fire.  A self-contained and somewhat diffident old solider, he was loved by his comrades, especially by veteran Company A, but few suspected that he possessed any talent in a literary way.  Among his papers, however, was found the following little poem, written in 1864, dedicated to his wife, and containing sentiment worthy to be perpetuated.”  (Page 525 Under Both Flags  A Panorama of the Great Civil War as Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure and the Romance of Reality  Edited by C.R. Graham. 1896)

An obituary from Kansas City says that McArdle was born in Ireland in 1837, and came to the U.S. at age 10.  “When, in 1861, the war of the Rebellion broke out, McArdle enlisted in that famous 73d New York, 4th Regiment, Excelsior Brigade, 2d New York F’ire Zouaves.  In the fall of 1864, McArdle went to Kansas City and engaged for a short time in work for the government. But the urgent call for troops by President Lincoln once more appealed to his patriotism, and he re-entered the army, enlisting in the 51st Missouri, and serving as first sergeant. After five months’ service his regiment was mustered out of service, and McArdle went back to Kansas City.”  The obituary goes on to share about his service as their Fire Chief.
So McArdle would have been 27 years old when he wrote the poem about his love for his wife and her love for him that gave him strength as he served his country.  C.R. Graham is right.   Such love, such drawing strength to do the hard and challenging from knowing that you are loved by a wife who lets you go to do your duty while deeply desiring you to safely return is indeed a “sentiment worthy to be perpetuated”.  Consider the wisdom observations from King Solomon:

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and has obtained favor from the Lord”
Proverbs 18:22 NASV
“An excellent wife, who can find her?  For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” 
Proverbs 31:10-11,30 NASV

For my tribute to my wife, see my post on Aug.24, 2016:  In Honor of my Beloved Wife Vicki Lynn Rowe.

Children’s Project:  Discuss how McArdle’s love for his wife and his knowing that she cared and prayed for him while he was away in danger serving his country would have been a source of strength for him.  Discuss how a strong marriage between husband and wife can be built by sharing how you and your spouse have deepened your love for each other.