L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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We blazon here upon thy front

His glory and His shame.

In token that thou shalt not flinch
Christ's quarrel to maintain,

But 'neath His Banner manfully
Firm at thy post remain ;

In token that thou too shalt tread

The path He travelled by,
Endure the Cross, despise the shame,

And sit thee down on high ;

Thus outwardly and visibly

We seal thee for His own ;
And may the brow that wears His Cross

Hereafter share His Crown.



WILLIAM MILLER

CLXXXIII
WILLIE WINKIE

Wee Willie Winkie rins through the town,
Up stairs and doon stairs in his nicht-gown,
Tirling at the window, crying at the lock,
' Are the weans in their bed, for it's now ten
o'clock ? '



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 173

' Hey, Willie Winkie, are ye coming ben ?

The cat's singing grey thrums to the sleeping hen,

The dog's spelder'd on the floor, and disna gi'e

a cheep,
But here's a waukrife laddie ! that winna fa'

asleep.'

Onything but sleep, you rogue ! glow'ring like

the moon,

Rattling in an aim jug wi' an airn spoon,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crawing like

a cock,
Skirling like a kenna-what, wauk'ning sleeping

folk.

' Hey, Willie Winkie, the wean's in a creel !
Wambling aff a bodie's knee like a very eel,
Rugging at the cat's lug, and ravelling a' her

thrums
Hey, Willie Winkie, see, there he comes ! '

Wearied is the mither that has a stoorie wean,
A wee stumpie stoussie, that canna rin his lane,
That has a battle aye wi' sleep before he'll close

an e'e
But a kiss frae aff his rosy lips gi'es strength

anew to me.



ROBERT BROWNING

CLXXXIV

THE GUARDIAN ANGEL
A Picture at Fano

Dear and great Angel, wouldst thou only leave
That child, when thou hast done with him,
for me !

Let me sit all the day here, that when eve
Shall find performed thy special ministry,

And time come for departure, thou, suspending



174 ENGLISH VERSE

Thy flight, mayst see another child for tending,
Another still, to quiet and retrieve.

Then I shall feel thee step one step, no more,
From where thou standest now, to where I

gaze,
And suddenly my head is covered o'er

With those wings, white above the child who

prays
Now on that tomb and I shall feel thee

guarding

Me, out of all the world ; for me, discarding
Yon heaven thy home, that waits and opes
its door.

I would not look up thither past thy head

Because the door opes, like that child, I know,
For I should have thy gracious face instead,
Thou bird of God ! And wilt thou bend me

low

Like him, and lay, like his, my hands together,
And lift them up to pray, and gently tether
Me, as thy lamb there, with thy -garment's
spread ?

If this was ever granted, I would rest

My head beneath thine, while thy healing

hands

Close-covered both my eyes beside thy breast,
Pressing the brain, which too much thought

expands,

Back to its proper size again, and smoothing

Distortion down till every nerve had soothing,

And all lay quiet, happy and suppressed.

How soon all worldly wrong would be repaired !

I think how I should view the earth and skies
And sea, when once again my brow was bared

After thy healing, with such different eyes.
O world, as God has made it ! All is beauty :
And knowing this, is love, and love is duty.

What further may be sought for or declared ?



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 175

Guercino drew this angel I saw teach

(Alfred, dear friend !) that little child to pray,
Holding the little hands up, each to each

Pressed gently, with his own head turned

away

Over the earth where so much lay before him
Of work to do, though heaven was opening o'er

him.
And he was left at Fano by the beach.

We were at Fano, and three times we went
To sit and see him in his chapel there,

And drink his beauty to our soul's content
My angel with me too : and since I care

For dear Guercino' s fame (to which in power

And glory comes this picture for a dower,
Fraught with a pathos so magnificent)

And since he did not work thus earnestly

At all times, and has else endured some wrong

I took one thought his picture struck from me,
And spread it out, translating it to song.

My love is here. Where are you, dear old friend ?

How rolls the Wairoa at your world's far end ?
This is Ancona, yonder is the sea.

CLXXXV
PIPPA'S SONG

Overhead the tree-tops meet,

Flowers and grass spring 'neath one's feet ;

There was nought above me, nought below,

My childhood had not learned to know :

For, what are the voices of birds

Ay, and of beasts, but words, our words,

Only so much more sweet ?

The knowledge of that with my life begun.

But I had so near made out the sun,

And counted your stars, the seven and one,

Like the fingers of my hand :

Nay, I could all but understand



176 ENGLISH VERSE

Wherefore through heaven the white moon

ranges ;

And just when out of her soft fifty changes
No unfamiliar face might overlook me
Suddenly God took me.



AUBREY DE VERE



A CONVENT SCHOOL IN A
CORRUPT CITY

Hark how they laugh, those children at their

sport !

O'er all this city vast, that knows not sleep,
Labour and sin their ceaseless vigil keep :
Yet hither still good angels make resort.
Innocence here and Mirth a single fort
Maintain : and though in many a snake-like

sweep

Corruption round the weedy walls doth creep,
Its track not yet hath slimed this sunny court.
Glory to God, who so the world hath framed
That in all places children more abound
Than they by whom Humanity is shamed !
Children outnumber men : and millions die
Who knows not this ? in blameless infancy.
Sowing with innocence our sin-stained ground



EMILY BRONTE

CLXXXVII

TELL ME, TELL ME, SMILING CHILD

Tell me, tell me, smiling child,
What the past is like to thee.
An autumn evening, soft and mild,
With a wind that sighs mournfully.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 177

Tell me what is the present hour.

A green and flowery spray,

Where the young bird sits gathering its power

To mount and fly away.

And what is the future, happy one ?
A sea beneath a cloudless sun :
A mighty, glorious, dazzling sea
Stretching into infinity.



CLXXXVIII
BROTHER AND SISTER

I cannot choose but think upon the time
When our two lives grew like two buds that kiss
At lightest thrill from the bee's swinging chime,
Because the one so near the other is.

He was the elder and a little man
Of forty inches, bound to show no dread,
And I the girl that puppy-like now ran,
Now lagged behind my brother's larger tread.

I held him wise, and when he talked to me

Of snakes and birds, and which God loved the

best,

I thought his knowledge marked the boundary
Where men grew blind, though angels knew the

rest.

If he said ' Hush ! ' I tried to hold my breath.
Wherever he said ' Come ! ' I stepped in faith.

Long years have left their writing on my brow,
But yet the freshness and the dew-fed beam
Of those young mornings are about me now,
When we two wandered toward the far-off
stream

With rod and line. Our basket held a store
Baked for us only, and I thought with joy
M



178 ENGLISH VERSE

That I should have my share, though he had

more.
Because he was the elder and a boy.

The firmaments of daisies since to me
Have had those mornings in their opening eyes,
The bunched cowslip's pale transparency
Carries that sunshine of sweet memories.

And wild-rose branches take their finest scent
From those blest hours of infantine content. . . .

Our meadow-path had memorable spots :
One where it bridged a tiny rivulet,
Deep hid by tangled blue forget-me-nots ;
And all along the waving grasses met

My little palm, or nodded to my cheek,
When flowers with upturned faces gazing drew
My wonder downward, seeming all to speak
With eyes of souls that dumbly heard and knew.

Then came the copse, where wild things rushed

unseen,

And black-scathed grass betrayed the past abode
Of mystic gypsies, who still lurked between
Me and each hidden distance of the road.

A gypsy once had startled me at play,
Blotting with her dark smile my sunny day. . . .

Our brown canal was endless to my thought ;
And on its banks I sat in dreamy peace,
Unknowing how the good I loved was wrought,
Untroubled by the fear that it would cease.

Slowly the barges floated into view
Rounding a grassy hill, to me sublime
With some Unknown beyond it, whither flew
The parting cuckoo toward a fresh spring time.

The wide-arched bridge, the scented elder-
flowers,

The wondrous watery rings that died too soon,
The echoes of the quarry, the still hours
With white robe sweeping on the shadeless noon,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 179

Were but my growing self, are part of me,
My present Past, my root of piety. . . .

We had the self-same world, enlarged for each
By loving difference of girl and boy :
The fruit that hung on high beyond my reach
He plucked for me, and oft he must employ

A measuring glance to guide my tiny shoe
Where lay firm stepping-stones, or call to mind
' This thing I like my sister may not do,
For she is little, and I must be kind.'

Thus boyish Will the nobler mastery learned
Where inward vision over impulse reigns,
Widening its life with separate life discerned,
A Like unlike, a Self that self-restrains.

His years with others must the sweeter be
For those brief days he spent in loving me.

His sorrow was my sorrow, and his joy

Sent little leaps and laughs through all my

frame ;

My doll seemed lifeless, and no girlish toy
Had any reason, when my brother came.

I knelt with him at marbles, marked his fling
Cut the ringed stem and make the apple drop,
Or watched him winding close the spiral string
That looped the orbits of the humming top.

Grasped by such fellowship my vagrant thought
Ceased with dream-fruit dream-wishes to fulfil ;
My aery-picturing fantasy was taught
Subjection to the harder, truer skill

That seeks with deeds to grave a thought-
tracked line,
And by ' What is,' ' What will be ' to define.

School parted us ; we never found again
That childish world where our two spirits mingled
Like scents from varying roses that remain
One sweetness, nor can evermore be singled.



i8o ENGLISH VERSE

Yet the twin habit of that early time
Lingered for long about the heart and tongue :
We had been natives of one happy clime,
And its dear accent to our utterance clung.

Till the dire years whose awful name is Change
Had grasped our souls still yearning in divorce,
And pitiless shaped them in two forms that range
Two elements which sever their life's course.

But were another childhood-world my share,
I would be born a little sister there.



CHARLES KINGSLEY

CLXXXIX

A FAREWELL

My fairest child, I have no song to give you ;

No lark could pipe to skies so dull and grey :
Yet, ere we part, one lesson I can leave you

For every day.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever ;

Do noble things, not dream them, all day

long :
And so make life, death, and that vast for-ever

One grand, sweet song.



JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

cxc
TO THE DANDELION

Dear common flower, that grow'st beside the

way,
Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold,

First pledge of blithesome May,
Which children pluck, and, full of pride uphold.



High-hearted buccaneers, o'erjoyed that they
An Eldorado in the grass have found,
Which not the rich earth's ample round

May match in wealth, thou art more dear

to me

Than all the prouder summer-blooms may
be. ...

My childhood's earliest thoughts are linked

with thee ;
The sight of thee calls back the robin's song,

Who, from the dark old tree
Beside the door, sang clearly all day long,

And I, secure in childish piety,
Listened as if I heard an angel sing
With news from heaven, which he could bring

Fresh every day to my untainted ears,

When birds and flowers and I were happy
peers.

How like a prodigal doth Nature seem
When thou, for all thy gold, so common art !

Thou teachest me to deem
More sacredly of every human heart,

Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam
Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret

show,
Did we but pay the love we owe,

And with a child's undoubting wisdom look

On all these living pages of God's book.



cxci
THE FIRST SNOW-FALL

The snow had begun in the gloaming,

And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway

With a silence deep and white. . .

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,



182 ENGLISH VERSE

And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn,
Where a little headstone stood ;

How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,

Saying, ' Father, who makes it snow ? '

And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky

That arched o'er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience

That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,

' The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father

Alone can make it fall ! '

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her
And she, kissing back, could not know

That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.



WALT WHITMAN

CXCII

THERE WAS A CHILD WENT FORTH

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object that he look'd upon, that
object he became,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 183

And that object became part of him for the day

or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,

The grass and white and red morning-glories,

and white and red clover, and the song of

the phoebe-bird,

And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-
faint litter, and the mare's foal and the

cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the

mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously

below there, and the beautiful curious

liquid,
And the water plants with their graceful flat

heads, all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-
month became part of him,

Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-
yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the
garden,

And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and
the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and
the commonest weeds by the road,

And the old drunkard staggering home from the
outhouse of the tavern whence he had lately
risen,

And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way
to the school,

And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the
quarrelsome boys,

And the tidy and fresh-cheek' d girls, and the
barefoot negro boy and girl,

And all the changes of city and country wher-
ever he went.

His own parents, he that had father'd him and
she that had conceiv'd him in her womb
and birth 'd him,



184 ENGLISH VERSE

They gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day, they became
part of him.

The mother at home quietly placing the dishes
on the supper-table,

The mother with mild words, clean cap and
gown, a wholesome odour falling off her
person and clothes as she walks by,

The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean,
anger'd, unjust,

The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bar-
gain, the crafty lure,

The family usages, the language, the company, the
furniture, the yearning and swelling heart,

Affection that will not be gainsay'd, the sense
of what is real, the thought if after all it
should prove unreal,

The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-
time, the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all

flashes and specks ?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets, if

they are not flashes and specks what are

they ?
The streets themselves and the fa9ades of houses,

and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves, the

huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland seen from afar at

sunset, the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on

roofs and gables of white or brown two miles

off,
The schooner near by sleepily dropping down

the tide, the little boat slack- tow' d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken

crests, slapping,
The strata of colour'd clouds, the long bar of

maroon-tint away solitary by itself, the

spread of purity it lies motionless in,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 185

The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the
fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud,

These became part of that child who went forth
every day, and who now goes, and will
always go forth every day.



JEAN INGELOW

CXCIII

SEVEN TIMES ONE

There's no dew left on the daisies and clover,

There's no rain left in heaven :
I've said my ' seven times ' over and over,

Seven times one are seven.

I am old, so old, I can write a letter ;

My birthday lessons are done ;
The lambs play always, they know no better ;

They are only one times one.

moon ! in the night I have seen you sailing
And shining so round and low ;

You were bright ! ah bright ! but your light is

failing
You are nothing now but a bow.

You moon, have you done something wrong in

heaven
That God has hidden your face ?

1 hope if you have you will soon be forgiven,
And shine again in your place.

O velvet bee, you're a dusty fellow,
You've powdered your legs with gold !

O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,
Give me your money to hold !

O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
Where two twin turtle-doves dwell !

O cuckoopint, toll me the purple clapper
That hangs in your clear green bell!



t86 ENGLISH VERSE

And show me your nest with the young ones in it ;

I will not steal them away ;
I am old ! you may trust me, linnet, linnet

I am seven times one to-day.



THE SNOWDROP MONUMENT
(In Lichfield Cathedral)

Marvels of sleep grown cold !

Who hath not longed to fold
With pitying ruth, forgetful of their bliss,

Those cherub "forms that lie,

With none to watch them nigh,
Or touch the silent lips with one warm human
kiss ?

What ! they are left alone

All night with graven stone,
Pillars and arches that above them meet ;

While through those windows high

The journeying stars can spy,
And dim blue moonbeams drop on their un-
covered feet !

O cold ! yet look again,

There is a wandering vein

Traced in the hand where those white snowdrops
lie.

Let her wrapt dreamy smile

The wondering heart beguile,
That almost thinks to hear a calm contented sigh.

What silence dwells between

Those severed lips serene !
The rapture of sweet waiting breathes and grows ;

What trance-like peace is shed

On her reclining head,
And e'en on listless feet what languor of repose !

Angels of joy and love
Lean softly from above



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 187

And whisper to her sweet and marvellous things ;

Tell of the golden gate

That opened wide doth wait.
And shadow her dim sleep with their celestial
wings.

Hearing of that blest shore

She thinks on earth no more,
Contented to forego this wintry land.

She hath nor thought nor care

But to rest calmly there,

And hold the snowdrops pale that blossom in
her hand.

But on the other face

Broodeth a mournful grace ;
This had foreboding thoughts beyond her years ;

While sinking thus to sleep

She saw her mother weep,

And could not lift her hand to dry those heart-
sick tears.

Could not but failing lay,

Sighed her young life away,
And let her arm drop down in listless rest,

Too weary on that bed

To turn her dying head,
Or fold the little sister nearer to her breast.

Yet this is faintly told

On features fair and cold,
A look of calm surprise, of mild regret,

As if with life oppressed

She turned her to her rest,

But felt her mother's love and looked not to
forget.

How wistfully they close,

Sweet eyes, to their repose !
How quietly declines the placid brow !

The young lips seem to s'ay,

' I have wept much to-day,

And felt some bitter pains, but they are over
now.'



188 ENGLISH VERSE

Sleep ! there are left below

Many who pine to go,
Many who lay it to their chastened souls

That gloomy days draw nigh,

And they are blest who die.
For this green world grows worse the longer that
she rolls.

And as for me, I know
. A little of her woe,

Her yearning want doth in my soul abide,
And sighs of them that weep,
' O put us soon to sleep,

For when we wake with Thee we shall be
satisfied."



DORA GREENWELL

cxcv
CHILDHOOD'S WORLD

My world was then like His that first

A happy garden knew,
Unworn, and fresh, and glistening bright

With shining spheres of dew ;
My soul was full of light that passed

As through a tinctured pane
In warm and vermeil hues, and cast

On all its gorgeous stain ;
The dial on its grassy mound

That silent marked the hours,
(Time's footfall then awoke no sound

That only trod on flowers)
The sun-flowers and the moon-flowers

(These were lilies white and tall),
The ancient griffins that looked down

Upon me from the wall ;
These were for tokens unto me

And signs, they seemed to pass



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 189

Into my life as then I lay

At noon-day on the grass,
And twined a wondrous history

Slow twisting, branch and stem,
My garlands, binding all the while

My Being up with them ;
And I knew that in the wild-wood

'Mong the meadows, on the hill
Were flowers, but unto childhood

The best were nearest still ;
And I sometimes thought ' out yonder

I will seek for blossoms too,'
But turned again the fonder

To those that round me grew ;

Soon told were childhood's treasures-
The childish world was small,

But its wonders and its pleasures
Were its own it held them all !

This was the home of childhood ;

As in a Fairy Ring
Within the circle of its hearth

Was drawn each cherished thing ;
I sent no restless thought beyond,

I looked not to the door,
If the whole world had entered there

It could not give me more
Than those that sat around it all

I knew of good and wise
Spoke for me then upon their lips,

And lived within their eyes ;
I had no Future then, no Past,

My life was unto me
But one bright Now the happiness

That has no History !

Soon filled was childhood's measure,

The childish heart was small,
Yet they that made its treasure

Were its own it held them all !



igo ENGLISH VERSE

MATTHEW ARNOLD

CXCVI

ISEULT'S CHILDREN

Under the glittering hollies Iseult stands,
Watching her children play ; their little hands
Are busy gathering spars of quartz, and streams
Of stagshorn for their hats ; anon, with screams
Of mad delight they drop their spoils, and bound
Among the holly-clumps and broken ground,
Racing full speed, and startling in their rush
The fell-fares and the speckled missel-thrush
Out of their glossy coverts ; but when now
Their cheeks were flush'd, and over each hot

brow,

Under the feather 'd hats of the sweet pair,
In blinding masses shower'd the golden hair
Then Iseult call'd them to her, and the three
Cluster'd under the holly-screen, and she
Told them an old-world Breton history.

Warm in their mantles wrapt, the three stood

there,

Under the hollies, in the clear still air
Mantles with those rich furs deep glistering
Which Venice ships do from swart Egypt bring.
Long they stay'd still then, pacing at their ease,
Moved up and down under the glossy trees.
But still, as they pursued their warm dry road,
From Iseult's lips the unbroken story flow'd,
And still the children listen'd, their blue eyes
Fix'd on their mother's face in wide surprise ;
Nor did their looks stray once to the sea-side,
Nor to the brown heaths round them, bright and

wide,

Nor to the snow, which, though 'twas all away
From the open heath, still by the hedgerows lay,
Nor to the shining sea-fowl, that with screams
Bore up from where the bright Atlantic gleams,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 191

Swooping to landward ; nor to where, quite clear,
The fell-fares settled on the thickets near.
And they would still have listen'd, till dark night
Came keen and chill down on the heather bright ;
But, when the red glow on the sea grew cold,
And the grey turrets of the castle old
Look'd sternly through the frosty evening-air,
Then Iseult took by the hand those children fair,
And brought her tale to an end, and found the

path,
And led them home over the darkening heath. . . .

Sweet flower ! thy children's eyes
Are not more innocent than thine.

But they sleep in shelter'd rest,

Like helpless birds in the warm nest,

On the castle's southern side ;


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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 10 of 20)