“The Pardon Came Too Late”


"A fair-haired boy in a foreign land at sunrise was to die." The solder is captured while trying to desert. The pardon does not arrive in time to save him. After his death, his comrades learn that he had been trying to return to his dying mother

Supplemental text

Pardon Came Too Late, The
  Complete text(s)

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From Douglas Gilbert, Lost Chords, pp. 311-312.

A fair-haired boy in a foreign land
At sunrise was to die.
In a prson cell he sat alone,
From his heart there came a sigh.
Deserted from the ranks, they said,
The reason none could say.
They only knew the orders were
That he should die next day.
And so the hours glided by...
A messenger on wings did fly
To save this boy from such a fate --
A pardon -- but it came too late.

The volley was fired at sunrise,
Just after break of day.
And while the echoes lingered,
A soul had passed away
Into the arms of his Maker;
And there to hear his fate.
A tear, a sigh, a sad goodby --
The pardon came too late.

And 'round the campfire burning bright,
The story then was told,
How his mother on a dying bed
Called for her son so bold.
He hastened to obey her wish,
Was captured on the way --
She never saw her boy so fair;
He died at break of day.
And when the truth at last was known,
His innocence at once was shown.
To save from such an unjust fate
A pardon sent -- but 'twas too late.


For the story of Paul Dresser, see the notes to "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away." - RBW


  • NLScotland, RB.m.143(123), "The Pardon Came Too Late," Poet's Box (Dundee), c. 1880-1900


  • Vel Veteran [pseud. for either Arthur Fields, Vernon Dalhart or Irving Kaufman] "The Pardon Came Too Late" (Grey Gull 4237, 1928)


  1. Randolph 709, "The Pardon Came Too Late" (1 text)
  2. Spaeth-WeepMore, pp. 233-235, "The Pardon Came Too Late" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Gilbert, pp. 311-312, "The Pardon Came Too Late" (1 text)
  4. ST R709 (Full)
  5. Roud #7375
  6. BI, R709


Author: Paul Dresser (1857-1906)
Earliest date: 1927
Found in: US(So)