A Forced Recruit at Solferino.


In the ranks of the Austrian you found him ;1
He died with his face to you all :2
Yet bury him here where around him3
You honour your bravest that fall.4


Venetian, fair-featured, and slender,5
He lies shot to death in his youth,6
With a smile on his lips, over-tender7
For any mere soldier’s dead mouth.8


No stranger, and yet not a traitor !9
Though alien the cloth on his breast,10
Underneath it how seldom a greater11
Young heart, has a shot sent to rest !12


By your enemy tortured and goaded13
To march with them, stand in their file,14
His musket (see !) never was loaded,—15
He facing your guns with that smile.16


As orphans yearn on to their mothers,17
He yearned to your patriot bands,—18
Let me die for our Italy, brothers,19
If not in your ranks, by your hands !20


Aim straightly, fire steadily ; spare me21
A ball in the body, which may22
Deliver my heart here and tear me23
This badge of the Austrian away.”24


So thought he, so died he this morning.25
What then ? many others have died.26
Ay,—but easy for men to die scorning27
The death-stroke, who fought side by side ;28


One tricolor floating above them ;29
Struck down mid triumphant acclaims30
Of an Italy rescued to love them31
And blazon the brass with their names.32


But he,—without witness or honor,33
Mixed, shamed in his country’s regard,34
With the tyrants who march in upon her,—35
Died faithful and passive : ’twas hard.36


’Twas sublime. In a cruel restriction37
Cut off from the guerdon of sons,38
With most filial obedience, conviction,39
His soul kissed the lips of her guns.40


That moves you? nay, grudge not to show it41
While digging a grave for him here.42
The others who died, says your poet,43
Have glory : let him have a tear.44