In old family letters my cousin found this poem written in the fine script of a woman's handwriting. There is no name or date. The paper and handwriting indicate that it was written a long time ago, perhaps as early as 1883, the earliest date found so far. The author is unknown and may be a family member or a poem copied because they liked it.
If you know who the author might be, please leave a comment.
One of the Heroes
Hark, through the wild night's darkness rings out a terrible cry,
And the woman shudders to hear it, in the room up close to the sky:
"Fire!" in accents of terror, and voices the cry repeat,
And the firebells join in the clamor out in the stormy street.
"God grant we are safe, my darling," she says to the child in her arms,
While the voices far down in the darkness add to the bells' alarm.
Then she thinks of the two little children who are sleeping peacefully near],
And, "God pity the people in danger," she adds with a thrill of fear.
The voices ring louder and louder. She hears the swift tread of feet
And the sound of engines rumbling below in the stormy street.
"It must be the fire is near us." She listens: a step on the stair.
Then the door is flung wide and beyond it she sees the red flames aglare.
"Give me the child!" cried the fireman, "There's not a moment to spare!"
The flames like a glittering serpent are writhing up the stair.
"No, I will carry my baby," and then she points to the bed
Where the light from the hall shines brightly over a golden head.
One little head on the pillow - one only - the fireman sees,
With flossy curls stirring about it in the firey breeze.
He lifts the child while the other is cuddled away from sight.
And springs down the stair where the flame-hounds snarlafter their prey in its flight.
On, on, through the fire that leaps round as a swimmer breasts the wave,
Scorched and blinded and breathless, to go by, and he comes not back.
The flames leap higher and higher.
The weak walls sway and crack.
"Oh! My lost child!" cries the mother, forgetting the babe at her breast.
In this moment of awful anguish, she loveth the lost child best.
Up from the crowd, all breathless with horror and doubt and fear
Goes a cry: "Thank God, he's coming with the child!" and cheer on cheer
Rings through the night, blending strangely with the wind and the wild flame's roar,
As out of the tottering building, the fireman springs once more.
Straight to the mother he staggers with the rescued child and cries:
"I left him, and I have saved him!"