(Founded on an incident of the South African War.)
The army crossed the river under fire,
While busy at their work were shot and shell—
Their hideous, hateful task of maiming men—
A work, alas! which, to our shame, goes on,
As though the Prince of Peace had ne'er been born,
The Christmas message still been left unsung.—
The wounded struggled feebly in the stream,
Or sank without a struggle in its depths;
Then leapt a soldier from the British ranks,
Intent on help; and, heedless of the hail,
Death-dealing, which wrought havoc all around,
Into the stream he plunged, and, one by one,
Bore four poor sufferers safely to the shore.
"'Twas bravely done! What is the hero's name?"
Inquired the General who had watched the deed;
"What is his name? for I must write it down,
That he may have—as he has earned—the Cross."
But as with opened note-book stood the chief,
Poising his pencil in the act to write,
And ere the name was written, came a shell,
Which slew the soldier who had saved the four,
Just as his self-set task was at an end.
Success had crowned his efforts; his last load
Had been delivered into willing hands
Reached from the river-bank, and he himself
Was climbing up the bank when he was struck.
"Ah me, the pity of it!" cried his friends—
When to their ears the noble story came;—
"That he should lose his life when he had won
Such honor for himself—should miss the prized
Reward 'for valor,' the Victoria Cross!"
But was it so and did he suffer loss?
Nay, for the only way to find our life,
And keep it evermore, is thus to lose.
Be sure the name that was not written here
Is written in the royal Book of Life!
He lost a pebble, and a diamond found;
He dropped a crumb, and at a banquet sat;
Exchanged men's plaudits for the smile of God;
He lost the Cross Victoria, but he gained
The Cross of Christ and Love's unfading crown,
Shall he be pitied therefore?—Surely no!