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A Word of Cheer

This continues the series of poems and short stories taken from Ailenroc’s Book, by Cornelia Alexander.

“All here?” the anxious father cries,
And scans each frightened face
Turned, in mute terror, to the flames
That wrapt their dwelling place.
“All here?” he asks. The mother wakes
From her deep swoon to find
Her infant son—O, torturing thought!—
Sleeping, was left behind.

“What, ho!” the chief shouts. “Ladders up!
Though fierce the flames, and wild,
Some gallant soul will brave their wrath
To save that precious child.”
But, lo! he must give back;
A fiery wall of scorching flame
Flashes across the track.

And, as he stood, there came a voice
Up from the gazing throng:
“The man will fail, the child will die;
Good people, cheer him on!”
’Tis done. From every lip below
Rises a deaf’ning cheer;
A burst of tender sympathy
Falls on the fireman’s ear.

He turns again, and through the flame
Leaps, with a purpose true;
And soon, while yet they cheer below,
He reappears to view.
Bearing aloft the frightened babe;
And now the wild hurrahs
Ring out in loudest, gladdest peals
A “torrent of applause.”

He is safe again, and soon the babe
Forgets its sore alarms.
Cradled upon his mother’s breast
And sheltered in her arms.

Our upward path is rough and steep,
And oft the rugged track
Is so begirt with smoke and flames
The tired heart gives back.
Then always lend a helping hand,
If your own heart be strong;
And if you pass a fainting soul,
In pity cheer him on.

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