L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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Where feebly comes the mournful roar

Of buffeting wind and surging tide

Through many a room and corridor.

Full on their window the moon's ray

Makes their chamber as bright as day.

It shines upon the blank white walls,

And on the snowy pillow falls,

And on two angel-heads doth play

Turn'd to each other the eyes closed,

The lashes on the cheeks reposed.

Round each sweet brow the cap close-set

Hardly lets peep the golden hair ;

Through the soft-open'd lips the air

Scarcely moves the coverlet.

One little wandering arm is thrown

At random on the counterpane,

And often the fingers close in haste

As if their baby-owner chased

The butterflies again.

This stir they have and this alone ;

But else they are so still !

Ah, tired madcaps ! you lie still ;

But were you at the window now,

To look forth on the fairy sight


Of your illumined haunts by night,

To see the park-glades where you play

Far lovelier than they are by day,

To see the sparkle on the eaves,

And upon every giant-bough

Of those old oaks, whose wet red leaves

Are jewell'd with bright drops of rain

How would your voices run again !

And far beyond the sparkling trees

Of the castle-park one sees

The bare heaths spreading, clear as day,

Moor behind moor, far, far away,

Into the heart of Brittany.

And here and there, lock'd by the land,

Long inlets of smooth glittering sea,

And many a stretch of watery sand

All shining in the white moon-beams

But you see fairer in your dreams ! . . .

Yes, it is lonely for her in her hall.
The children, and the grey-hair'd seneschal,
Her women, and Sir Tristram's aged hound,
Are there the sole companions to be found.
But these she loves ; and noisier life than this
She would find ill to bear, weak as she is.
She has her children, too, and night and day
Is with them ; and the wide heaths where they


The hollies, and the cliff, and the sea-shore,
The sand, the sea-birds, and the distant sails,
These are to her dear as to them ; the tales
With which this day the children she beguiled
She gleaned from Breton grandames, when a


In every hut along this sea-coast wild ;
She herself loves them still, and, when they are

Can forget all to hear them, as of old. . . ,



Come, dear children, let us away ;
Down and away below !
Now my brothers call from the bay,
Now the great winds shoreward blow,
Now the salt tides seaward flow ;
Now the wild white horses play,
Champ and chafe and toss in the spray.
Children dear, let us away !
This way, this way !

Call her once before you go

Call once yet !
In a voice that she will know :

' Margaret ! Margaret ! '
Children's voices should be dear
(Call once more) to a mother's ear ;
Children's voices, wild with pain
Surely she will come again !
Call her once and come away ;

This way, this way !
' Mother dear, we cannot stay !
The wild white horses foam and fret.'

Margaret ! Margaret !

Come, dear children, come away down ;

Call no more !

One last look at the white-wall'd town,
And the little grey church on the windy shore ;

Then come down !
She will not come though you call all day ;

Come away, come away !

Children dear, was it yesterday
We heard the sweet bells over the bay ?
In the caverns where we lay,
Through the surf and through the swell,


The far-off sound of a silver bell ?
Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep,
Where the winds are all asleep ;
Where the spent lights quiver and gleam,
Where the salt weed sways in the stream,
Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round,
Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground ;
Where the sea-snakes coil and twine,
Dry their mail, and bask in the brine ;
Where great whales come sailing by,
Sail and sail, with unshut eye,
Round the world for ever and aye ?
When did music come this way ?
Children dear, was it yesterday ?

Children dear, was it yesterday

(Call yet once) that she went away ?

Once she sate with you and me,

On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,

And the youngest sate on her knee.

She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well,

When down swung the sound of the far-off bell.

She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green
sea ;

She said, ' I must go, for my kinsfolk pray

In the little grey church on the shore to-day.

'Twill be Easter-time in the world ah me !

And I lose my poor soul, Merman, here with

I said, ' Go up, dear heart, through the waves.

Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-
caves ! '

She smiled, she went up through the surf in the

Children dear, was it yesterday ?

Children dear, were we long alone ?
' The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan ;
Long prayers,' I said, ' in the world they say;
Come ! ' I said, and we rose through the surf in

the bay.
We went up the beach, by the sandy down


Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall'd

town ;
Through the narrow paved streets, where all

was still,

To the little grey church on the windy hill.
From the church came a murmur of folk at their


But we stood without in the cold-blowing airs.
We climb'd on the graves, on the stones worn

with rains,
And we gazed up the aisle through the small

leaded panes.

She sate by the pillar ; we saw her clear :
' Margaret, hist ! come quick, we are here.
Dear heart,' I said, ' we are long alone.
The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.'
But, ah, she gave me never a look,
For her eyes were seal'd to the holy book !
Loud prays the priest ; shut stands the door.
Come away, children, call no more !
Come away, come down, call no more !

Down, down, down !

Down to the depths of the sea !
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,

Singing most joyfully.
Hark what she sings : ' O joy, O joy,
For the humming street, and the child with its toy !
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well ;

For the wheel where I spun,

And the blessed light of the sun ! '

And so she sings her fill,

Singing most joyfully,

Till the shuttle falls from her hand,

And the whizzing wheel stands still.
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand,

And over the sand at the sea ;

And her eyes are set in a stare ;

And anon there breaks a sigh,

And anon there drops a tear,

From a sorrow-clouded eye,


And a heart sorrow-laden,

A long, long sigh

For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden
And the gleam of her golden hair.

Come away, away, children !
Come children, come down !
The hoarse wind blows coldly ;
Lights shine in the town.
She will start from her slumber
When gusts shake the door ;
She will hear the winds howling,
Will hear the waves roar.

We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing, ' Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she !
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea.'

But, children, at midnight,
When soft the winds blow,
When clear falls the moonlight,
When spring-tides are low ;
When sweet airs come seaward
From heaths starr'd with broom,
And high rocks throw mildly
On the blanch'd sands a gloom ;
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze, from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town ;
At the church on the hill-side
And then come back down.
Singing, ' There dwells a loved one,
But cruel is she !
She left lonely for ever
The kings of the sea.'




Once in royal David's city

Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a Mother laid her Baby

In a manger for His bed ;
Mary was that Mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from Heaven

Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,

And His cradle was a stall ;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour Holy.

And through all His wondrous Childhood

He would honour and obey,
Love, and watch the lowly Maiden,

In whose gentle arms He lay ;
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood's pattern,

Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us He knew ;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,

For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav'n above ;

And He leads His children on

To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,


We shall see Him ; but in Heav'n
Set at God's right hand on high ;
When like stars His children crown'd
All in white shall wait around.




When Love arose in heart and deed
To wake the world to greater joy,

' What can she give me now ? ' said Greed,
Who thought to win some costly toy.

He rose, he ran, he stoop'd, he clutch'd ;

And soon the Flowers, that Love let fall,
In Greed's hot grasp were fray'd and smutch'd,

And Greed said, ' Flowers ! Can this be all ?

He flung them down and went his way,
He cared no jot for thyme or rose ;

But boys and girls came out to play,

And some took these and some took those

Red, blue, and white, and green and gold
And at their touch the dew return'd,

And all the bloom a thousandfold
So red, so ripe, the roses burn'd !


Tell me, Praise, and tell me, Love,
What you both are thinking of ?

' O, we think,' said Love, said Praise,
' Now of children and their ways.'

Give me of your cup to drink,
Praise, and tell me what you think.


' O, I think of crowns of gold
For the clever and the bold.'

Then I turn'd to Love, and said
Love was glowing heavenly-red

Give me of your cup to drink,
Love, and tell me what you think :

Let me taste your bitter-sweet ;
Who are those that kiss your feet ?

Love look'd up I read her eyes,
They were stars and they were skies.

Clinging to her garment's hem,
Smiling as I look'd at them,

There were children scarr'd and halt,
Children weeping for a fault ;

Those who scarcely dared to raise
Doubtful eyes to smiling Praise.

Love look'd round, and Praise and Pride
Brought their glad ones to her side.

' Yea, these too ! ' she said, or sang ;
And the world with music rang.



Oh, earlier shall the rosebuds blow,
In after years, those happier years,

And children weep, when we lie low,
Far fewer tears, far softer tears.

Oh, true shall boyish laughter ring,
Like tinkling chimes, in kinder times !

And merrier shall the maiden sing :
And I not there, and I not there.


Like lightning in the summer night

Their mirth shall be, so quick and free ;

And oh ! the flash of their delight
I shall not see, I may not see.

In deeper dream, with wider range,

Those eyes shall shine, but not on mine

Unmoved, unblest, by worldly change,
The dead must rest, the dead shall rest.



Say, did his sisters wonder what could Joseph see

In a mild, silent little Maid like thee ?

And was it awful, in that narrow house,

With God for Babe and Spouse ?

Nay, like thy simple, female sort, each one

Apt to find Him in Husband and in Son,

Nothing to thee came strange in this

Thy wonder was but wondrous bliss :

Wondrous, for, though

True Virgin lives not but does know,

(Howbeit none ever yet confess'd,)

That God lies really in her breast,

Of thine He made His special nest !

And so

All mothers worship little feet,

And kiss the very ground they've trod ;

But, ah, thy little Baby sweet

Who was indeed thy God !


My little Son, who look.'d from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,


Having my law the seventh time disobey'd,

I struck him, and dismiss'd

With hard words and unkiss'd ;

His Mother, who was patient, being dead.

Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,

I visited his bed,

But found him slumbering deep,

With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet

From his late sobbing wet.

And I, with moan,

Kissing away his tears, left others of my own ;

For, on a table drawn beside his head,

He had put, within his reach,

A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone,

A piece of glass abraded by the beach,

And six or seven shells,

A bottle with bluebells,

And two French copper coins, ranged there with

careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.

So when that night I pray'd

To God, I wept, and said :

Ah ! when at last we lie with tranced breath,

Not vexing Thee in death,

And Thou rememberest of what toys

We made our joys,

How weakly understood

Thy great commanded good,

Then, fatherly not less

Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,

Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say,

' I will be sorry for their childishness.'


' If I were dead, you'd sometimes say, Poor

Child ! '
The dear lips quiver'd as they spake,


And the tears brake

From eyes which, not to grieve me, brightly


Poor Child, poor Child !
I seem to hear your laugh, your talk, your


It is not true that Love will do no wrong.
Poor Child !

And did you think, when you so cried and smiled,
How I, in lonely nights, should lie awake,
And of those words your full avengers make ?
Poor Child, poor Child !
And now, unless it be

That sweet amends thrice told are come to thee,
O God, have Thou no mercy upon me !
Poor Child !



I thought it was the little bed

I slept in long ago ;
A straight white curtain at the head,

And two smooth knobs below.

I thought I saw the nursery fire,

And in a chair well-known
My mother sat, and did not tire

With reading all alone.

If I should make the slightest sound

To show that I'm awake,
She'd rise, and lap the blankets round,

My pillow softly shake ;

Kiss me, and turn my face to see

The shadows on the wall,
And then sing Rousseau's Dream to me,

Till fast asleep I r ^.l.


But this is not my little bed,

That time is far away ;
'Mong strangers cold I live instead,

From dreary day to day.


Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing
What a little thing
To remember for years
To remember with tears !




Where did you come from, Baby dear ?
Out of the everywhere into here.

Where did you get those eyes so blue ?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin ?
Some of the starry spikes left in.

Where did you get that little tear ?
I found it waiting when I got here.

W T hat makes your forehead so smooth and high ?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose ?
I saw something better than anyone knows.

Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss ?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.


Where did you get this pearly ear ?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands ?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things ?
From the same box as the cherub's wings.

How did they all just come to be you ?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear ?
God thought about you, and so I am here.




Do not mind my crying, Papa, I am not crying
for pain.

Do not mind my shaking, Papa, I am not shak-
ing with fear ;

Tho' the wild wild wind is hideous to hear,

And I see the snow and the rain.

When will you come back again,

Papa, Papa ?

Somebody else that you love, Papa,
Somebody else that you dearly love
Is weary, like me, because you're away.
Sometimes I see her lips tremble and move,
And I seem to know what they're going to say ;
And every day, and all the long day,
I long to cry, ' Oh Mamma, Mamma,
When will Papa come back again ? '
But before I can say it I see the pain
Creeping up on her white white cheek,
As the sweet sad sunshine creeps up the white


And then I am sorry, and fear to speak ;
And slowly the pain goes out of her cheek,
As the sad sweet sunshine goes from the wall.
Oh, I wish I were grown up wise and tall,
That I might throw my arms round her neck
And say, ' Dear Mamma, oh, what is it all
That I see and see and do not see
In your white white face all the livelong day ? '
But she hides her grief from a child like me.
When will you come back again,
Papa, Papa ?

Where were you going, Papa, Papa ?

All this long while have you been on the sea ?

When she looks as if she saw far away,

Is she thinking of you, and what does she see ?

Are the white sails blowing,

Are the -blue men rowing,

And are you standing on the high deck

Where we saw you stand till the ship grew grey,

And we watched and watched till the ship was a


And the dark came first to you, far away ?
I wish I could see what she can see,
But she hides her grief from a child like me.
When will you come back again,
Papa, Papa ?

Don't you remember, Papa, Papa ?
How we used to sit by the fire, all three,
And she told me tales while I sat on her knee,
And heard the winter winds roar down the street,
And knock like men at the window pane,
And the louder they roared, oh, it seemed more


To be warm and warm as we used to be,
Sitting at night by the fire, all three ?
When will you come back again,
Papa, Papa ?

Papa, I like to sit by the fire ;

Why does she sit far away in the cold ?


If I had but somebody wise and old,

That every day I might cry and say,

' Is she changed, do you think, or do I forget ?

Was she always as white as she is to-day ?

Did she never carry her head up higher ? '

Papa, Papa, if I could but know !

Do you think her voice was always so low ?

Did I always see what I seem to see

When I wake up at night and her pillow is wet ?

You used to say her hair it was gold

It looks like silver to me.

But still she tells the same tale that she told,

She sings the same songs when I sit on her knee,

And the house goes on as it went long ago,

When we lived together, all three.

Sometimes my heart ssems to sink, Papa,

And I feel as if I could be happy no more.

Is she changed, do you think, Papa,

Or did I dream she was brighter before ?

She makes me remember my snowdrop, Papa,

That I forgot in thinking of you,

The sweetest snowdrop that ever I knew !

But I put it out of the sun and rain :

It was green and white when I put it away,

It had one sweet bell and green leaves four ;

It was green and white when I found it that day,

It had one pale bell and green leaves four,

But I was not glad of it any more.

Was it changed, do you think, Papa,

Or did I dream it was brighter before ?

Do not mind my crying, Papa,

I am not crying for pain.

Do not mind my shaking, Papa,

I am not shaking for fear ;

Tho' the wild wild wind is hideous to hear,

And I see the snow and the rain.

When will you come back again,

Papa, Papa ?




To that green hill, the shepherds' haunt,
Why speed the children's feet ?
And who the Youth that sits alone,
The clamorous flock to greet ?

His hands are laid above their heads,
Their faces at His knee :
His looks are looks of love ; yet seem
Something beyond to see.

The simple townsmen cross the hill
And bid the throng away,
' Nor press around the stranger youth,
Nor by the fold delay.'

As one who smiles and wakes, He lifts
A child upon His knee :
God's kingdom is of such as these ;
So let them come to Me.'

Ah, Lord and Christ ! Thy perfect heart
No fond excess could touch !
But man's best strength is feebleness,
And we may love too much !

Yet maim'd the man, or poor in blood,
Who glows not with delight
Whene'er the little ones go by
In casual daily sight ;

Or when the child at mother's knee,
His altar, lisps a prayer,
And perfect faith, and utter love,
And Christ Himself, is there ;

Or when the little hands are clasp'd
To beg some baby grace,
And all the beauty of the dawn
Comes rose-red o'er the face ;


Or when some elder one from sport
Her smaller sister wiles,
And two bright heads o'ershade the book ;
Half study, and half smiles.

Ah, Lord and Christ ! Thy perfect heart
No fond excess could touch !
Yet when that innocence we see,
How can we love too much ?

They twine around our heart of hearts ;
Their spell we seek in vain ;
Go, ask the linnet why he sings,
He can but sing again !

To winter-life their bloom and breath

Renew a later spring,

O dewy roses of the dawn,

Fresh from God's gardening !

Earth's treasures waste with use ; but Thine,
O Lord ! by lessening grow :
From love's pure fount the more we take,
The more the waters flow.

How should we prize the things unseen,
Not prizing what we see ?
How turn away Thy little ones
Without forbidding Thee ?

The Shepherd wills not we should stint
Or count our kisses o'er ;
Nor bids us love His lambs the less,
But Him, Who loves them, more.


The vision of her girlhood glinted by :

And how the father through their garden stray'd

And, child with children, play'd

And teased the rabbit-hutch, and fed the dove


Before him from above
Alighting, in his visitation sweet,
Led on by little hands, and eager feet.

Hence among those he stands,

Elect ones, ever in whose ears the word

He that offends these little ones ... is heard ;

With love and kisses smiling-out commands,

And all the tender hearts within his hands ;

Seeing, in every child that goes, a flower

From Eden's nursery bower,

A little stray from Heaven, for reverence here

Sent down, and comfort dear :

All care well paid for by one pure caress,

And life made happy in their happiness.




Our God in Heaven, from that holy place,
To each of us an angel guide has given ;

But mothers of dead children have more grace,
For they give angels to their God in Heaven.

How can a mother's heart feel cold or weary,
Knowing her dearer self safe, happy, warm ?

How can she feel her road too dark or dreary
Who knows her treasure sheltered from the
storm ?

How can she sin ? Our hearts may be un-

Our God forgot, our holy Saints defied
But can a mother hear her dead child pleading,

And thrust those little angel-hands aside ?

Those little hands stretched down to draw her


Nearer to God by mother-love. We all


Are blind and weak yet surely she can never,
With such a stake in Heaven, fail or fall.

She knows that, when the mighty angels raise
Chorus in Heaven, one little silver tone

Is hers for ever that one little praise,
One little, happy voice, is all her own.

We may not see her sacred crown of honour ;

But all the angels, flitting to and fro,
Pause smiling as they pass they look upon her

As mother of an angel whom they know ;

One whom they nestling left at Mary's feet
The children's place in Heaven who softly

A little chant to please them, slow and sweet,
Or smiling, strokes their little folded wings :

Or gives them her white lilies or her beads
To play with : yet, in spite of flower or song,

They often lift a wistful look, that pleads

And asks her why their mother stays so long.

Then our dear Queen makes answer, she will call
Her very soon : meanwhile they are beguiled

To wait, and listen while she tells them all
The story of her Jesus as a child.

Ah ! saints in Heaven may pray with earnest will
And pity for their weak and erring brothers :

Yet there is prayer in Heaven more tender still
The little children pleading for their mothers.




Bright Dorothy, with eyes of blue,
And serious Dickie, brave as fair,

Crossing to Church you oft may view
When no one but myself is there :


First to the belfry they repair,
And, while to the long ropes they cling,

And make believe to call to prayer,
For angels' ears the bells they ring.

Next, seated gravely in a pew

A pulpit homily they share,
Meet for my little flock of two,

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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 11 of 20)