L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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Pointed and plain, as they can bear ;

Then venture up the pulpit stair,
Pray at the desk or gaily sing :

O sweet child-life, without a care
For angels' ears the bells they ring.

Dear little ones, the early dew

Of holy infancy they wear,
And lift to Heaven a face as true

As flowers that breathe the morning air ;

Whate'er they do, where'er they fare,
They can command an angel's wing :

Their voices have a music rare,
For angels' ears the bells they ring.

O parents, of your charge beware ;

Their angels stand before the King :
In work, play, sleep, and everywhere

For angels' ears the bells they ring.



THOMAS EDWARD BROWN

CCXIII

BETWEEN OUR FOLDING LIPS

Between our folding lips

God slips

An embryon life, and goes ;

And this becomes your rose.

We love, God makes : in our sweet mirth

God spies occasion for a birth.

Then is it His, or is it ours ?

I know not He is fond of flowers.



212 ENGLISH VERSE

CCXIV

THE PRAYERS

I was in Heaven one day when all the prayers
Came in, and angels bore them up the stairs
Unto a place where he,
Who was ordained such ministry,
Should sort them, so that in that palace bright
The presence-chamber might be duly dight ;
For they were like to flowers of various bloom ;
And a divinest fragrance filled the room.

Then did I see how the great sorter chose
One flower that seemed to me a hedgeling
rose,

And from the tangled press

Of that irregular loveliness
Set it apart and ' This,' I heard him say,
' Is for the Master ' : so upon his way
He would have passed ; then I to him :
' Whence is this rose ? O thou of cherubim
The chief est ? ' - " Know'st thou not ? ' he said

and smiled,
' This is the first prayer of a little child.'

ccxv
MAY MARGERY OF LYNTON

May Margery of Lynton

Is brighter than the day ;
Her eye is like the sun in heaven

Was ne'er so sweet a May !

May Margery has learnt a tune

To which her soul is set
The voices of all happy things

Are in its cadence met
The voices of all happy things

In air, and earth, and sea,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 213

Make music in the little breast
Of sweet May Margery.

And has May Margery a heart ?

Nay, child, God give thee grace !
He made it for thee years ago,

And keeps it in a place
The heart of gold that shall be thine,

But who shall have the key
That opens it Ah, who ? ah, who ?

Ah, who, May Margery ?



THE INTERCEPTED SALUTE

A little maiden met me in the lane,

And smiled a smile so very fain,

So full of trust and happiness,

I could not choose but bless

The child, that she should have such grace

To laugh into my face.

She never could have known me : but I thought

It was the common joy that wrought

Within the little creature's heart,

As who should say : 'Thou art

As I ; the heaven is bright above us ;

And there is God to love us.

And I am but a little gleeful maid,

And thou art big, and old, and staid ;

But the blue hills have made thee mild

As is a little child.

Wherefore I laugh that thou may'st see

O, laugh ! O, laugh with me ! '

A pretty challenge ! Then I turned me round,

And straight the sober truth I found.

For I was not alone ; behind me stood,

Beneath his load of wood,

He that of right the smile possessed

Her father manifest.



214 ENGLISH VERSE

O, blest be God ! that such an overplus

Of joy is given to us !

That that sweet innocent

Gave me the gift she never meant,

A gift secure and permanent !

For, howsoe'er the smile had birth,

It is an added glory on the earth.



ccxvn
IN A FAIR GARDEN

In a fair garden

I saw a mother playing with her child.

And, with that chance beguiled,

I could not choose but look

How she did seem to harden

His little soul to brook

Her absence reconciled

With after boon of kisses,

And sweet irrational blisses.

For she would hide

With loveliest grace

Of seeming craft

Till he was ware of none beside

Himself upon the place ;

And then he laughed,

And then he stood a space

Disturbed, his face

Prepared for tears ;

And half-acknowledged fears

Met would-be courage, balancing

His heart upon the spring

Of flight till, waxing stout,

He gulped the doubt.

So up the pleached alley

Full swift he ran :

Whence she,

Not long delayed,

Rushed forth with joyous sally



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 215

Upon her little man.
Then was it good to see
How each to other made
A pretty rapture of discovery

Blest child ! blest mother ! blest the truth ye

taught
God seeketh us, and yet He would be sought.



O GOD, TO THEE I YIELD

God, to Thee I yield

The gift Thou giv'st most precious, most divine !
Yet to what field

1 must resign
His little feet

That wont to be so fleet,

I muse. O, joy to think

On what soft brink

Of flood he plucks the daffodils,

On what empurpled hills

He stands, Thy kiss all fresh upon his brow,

And wonders, if his father sees him now !



CHRISTINA GEORGINA ROSSETTI

CCXIX

CONTENTMENT

Dancing on the hill-tops,

Singing in the valleys,
Laughing with the echoes,

Merry little Alice.

Playing games with lambkins
In the flowering valleys,

Gathering pretty posies,
Helpful little Alice.



216 ENGLISH VERSE

It her father's cottage
Turned into a palace,

And he owned the hill-tops
And the flowering valleys,

She'd be none the happier,
Happy little Alice.



ccxx
A CRADLE SONG

Sleep, little Baby, sleep ;

The holy Angels love thee,
And guard thy bed, and keep

A blessed watch above thee.
No spirit can come near

Nor evil beast to harm thee :
Sleep, Sweet, devoid of fear

Where nothing need alarm thee.

The Love which doth not sleep,

The eternal Arms surround thee :
The Shepherd of the sheep

In perfect love hath found thee.
Sleep through the holy night,

Christ-kept from snare and sorrow,
Until thou wake to light

And love and warmth to-morrow.

ccxxi
BUDS AND BABIES

A million buds are born that never blow,
That sweet with promise lift a pretty head

To blush and wither on a barren bed,
And leave no fruit to show.

Sweet, unfulfilled. Yet have I understood
One joy, by their fragility made plain :

Nothing was ever beautiful in vain,
Or all in vain was good.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 217

CCXXII

HOLY INNOCENTS DAY

They scarcely waked before they slept,
They scarcely wept before they laughed ;
They drank indeed death's bitter draught,
But all its bitterest dregs were kept
And drained by Mothers while they wept.

From Heaven the speechless Infants speak :
Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear,
For swords nor sorrows come not here.

Now we are strong who were so weak,

And all is ours we could not seek.

We bloom among the blooming flowers,

We sing among the singing birds ;

Wisdom we have who wanted words :

Here morning knows not evening hours,

All's rainbow here without the showers.

And softer than our Mother's breast,
And closer than our Mother's arm,
Is here the Love that keeps us warm

And broods above our happy nest.

Dear Mothers, come : for Heaven is best.

' LEWIS CARROLL '

CCXXIII

PROEM TO 'ALICE IN WONDERLAND'

All in the golden afternoon

Full leisurely we glide ;
For both our oars, with little skill,

By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence

Our wanderings to guide.

Ah, cruel Three ! In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,



2i& ENGLISH VERSE

To beg a tale of breath too weak

To stir the tiniest feather !
Yet what can one poor voice avail

Against three tongues together ?

Imperious Prima flashes forth

Her edict ' to begin it '-
In gentler tone Secunda hopes

' There will be nonsense in it ! '
While Tertia interrupts the tale

Not more than once a minute.

Anon, to sudden silence won,

In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land

Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast

And half believe it true.

And ever, as the story drained

The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one

To put the subject by,
' The rest next time ' ' It is next time ! '

The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland :

Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out

And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,

Beneath the setting sun.

Alice ! a childish story take,

And with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined

In Memory's mystic band,
Like pilgrim's wither'd wreath of flowers

Pluck'd in a far-off land.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 219



From PROEM TO ' ALICE THROUGH
THE LOOKING GLASS'

Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder !

Though time be fleet, and I and thou
Are half a life asunder,

Thy loving smile will surely hail

The love-gift of a fairy-tale.

I have not seen thy sunny face,
Nor heard thy silver laughter ;

No thought of me shall find a place
In thy young life's hereafter

Enough that now thou wilt not fail

To listen to my fairy-tale.



FRANCIS ROBERT ST. CLAIR-ERSKINE,
EARL OF ROSSLYN

ccxxv
BED-TIME

'Tis bed-time ; say your hymn, and bid ' Good-
night,

God bless Mamma, Papa, and dear ones all,'
Your half-shut eyes beneath your eyelids fall,
Another minute you will shut them quite.
Yes, I will carry you, put out the light,
And tuck you up, although you are so tall !
What will you give me, Sleepy One, and call
My wages, if I settle you all right ?
I laid her golden curls upon my arm,
I drew her little feet within my hand,
Her rosy palms were joined in trustful bliss,
Her heart next mine beat gently, soft and warm ;
She nestled to me, and, by Love's command,
Paid me my precious wages ' Baby's kiss.'



220 ENGLISH VERSE

THE HON. RODEN NOEL

CCXXVI

VALE !

O tender dove, sweet circling in the blue,

Whom now a delicate cloud receives from view,

O cool, soft, delicate cloud, we name dim Death !

O pure white lamb-lily, inhaling breath

From spiritual ether among bowers

Of evergreen in the ever-living flowers

Yonder aloft upon the airy height,

Mine eyes may scarce arrive at thy still light !

Wandering ever higher, O, farewell !

Wilt thou the dear God tell

We loved thee well,

While He would lend thee ? Why may we not

follow ?

Do thou remember us in our dim hollow !
Farewell, love ! O, farewell, farewell, farewell !
We wave to thee, as when of old
Thou waved, and we waved, heart of gold !
Parting for a little while.
And is all parting only for a while ?

O faint perfume from realms beyond the sky !
Waft of a low celestial melody !
O pure live water from our earthly well,
Whom Love changed to a heavenly oenomel,
The while he kiss'd the bowl with longing lip,
And drew the soul therein to fellowship !
Shimmer of white wings, ere ye vanish !
Glimmer of white robes, ere ye banish,
With your full glory, mortal eyes
From Paradise !
So far, so far,
Little star !

Unless thine own dear happiness it mar,
Remember us in our low dell,
Who love thee well !
Farewell !



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 221
WILLIAM MORRIS

CCXXVII

THE VISION

Sirs, ye are old, and ye have seen perchance
Some little child for very gladness dance
Over a scarcely-noticed worthless thing,
Worth more to him than ransom of a king,
Did not a pang of more than pity take
Your heart thereat, not for the youngling's

sake,

But for your own, for man that passes by.
So like to God, so like the beasts that die ?
Lo, Sirs, my pity for myself is such,
When like an image that my hand can touch
My old self grows unto myself grown old.



SARAH MORGAN BRYAN PIATT



LAST WORDS
(Over a little bed at night)

Good night, pretty sleepers of mine

I never shall see you again :
Ah, never in shadow or shine ;

Ah, never in dew or in rain.

In your small dreaming-dresses of white,
With the wild-bloom you gathered to-day

In your quiet shut hands, from the light
And the dark you will wander away.

Though no graves in the bee-haunted grass,
And no love in the beautiful sky,

Shall take you as yet, you will pass,

With this kiss, through these tear-drops.
Good-bye !



1-2. ENGLISH VERSE

With less gold and more gloom in their hair,
When the buds near have faded to flowers,

Three faces may wake here as fair
But older than yours are, by hours !

Good night, then, lost darlings of mine

I never shall see you again :
Ah, never in shadow or shine,

Ah, never in dew or in rain.



ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE

CCXXIX

IN A GARDEN

Baby, see the flowers !

Baby sees

Fairer things than these,
Fairer though they be than dreams of ours.

Baby, hear the birds !

Baby knows
Better songs than those,
Sweeter though they sound than sweetest words.

Baby, see the moon !

Baby's eyes
Laugh to watch it rise,

Answering light with love and night with
noon.

Baby, hear the sea !

Baby's face
Takes a graver grace,

Touched with wonder what the sound may
be.

Baby, see the star !

Baby's hand
Opens, warm and bland,
Calm in claim of all things fair that are.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 223

Baby, hear the bells !

Baby's head
Bows, as ripe for bed,
Now the flowers curl round and close their cells.

Baby, flower of light,

Sleep, and see
Brighter dreams than we,
Till good day shall smile away good night.



ccxxx
From 'A BABY'S DEATH '

The little hands that never sought
Earth's prizes, worthless all as sands.
What gift has death, God's servant, brought
The little hands ?

We ask : but love's self silent stands,
Love, that lends eyes and wings to thought
To search where death's dim heaven expands.

Ere this, perchance, though love know nought,
Flowers fill them, grown in lovelier lands,
Where hands of guiding angels caught
The little hands.

ccxxxi
FIRST FOOTSTEPS

A little way, more soft and sweet
Than fields aflower with May,

A babe's feet, venturing, scarce complete
A little way.

Eyes full of dawning day
Look up for mother's eyes to meet,
Too blithe for song to say.

Glad as the golden spring to greet

Its first live leaflet's play,
Love, laughing, leads the little feet

A little way.



224 ENGLISH VERSE



CCXXXII

WHA T IS DEA TH ?

Looking on a page where stood
Graven of old on old-world wood
Death, and by the grave's edge grim,
Pale, the young man facing him,
Asked my well-beloved of me
Once what strange thing this might be,
Gaunt and great of limb.

Death, I told him : and surprise
Deepening more his wildwood eyes
(Like some sweet fleet thing's whose breath
Speaks all spring though nought it saith),
Up he turned his rosebright face
Glorious with its seven years' grace,
Asking What is Death ?



WILLIAM THRELKELD EDWARDS

CCXXXIII

UPWARD GAZING

Whither gazest, O my child ?

What beh oldest in the sky?
Dost thou feel thyself exiled

From on high?

Doth the Father give to thee
Clearer vision than is mine ?

Is it given thee to see
Heaven shine?

Dost thou see the face of Christ
With thy new baptized eyes ?

Angels bright emparadised
In the skies ?

O my child, that thou couldst speak !
Or thine eyes reflect the sight !



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 225

Thou must, since my faith is weak,
Teach me right.

Shall I teach thee more than thou
Canst reveal from God to me ?

For the sight of heaven seems now
Given thee.

Sweet, it seems thy deep blue eyes
Take new azure from the sky ;

Truly near to heaven lies
Infancy.



BRET HARTE

CCXXXIV

LITTLE NELL

Above the pines the moon was slowly drifting,

The river sang below ;
The dim Sierras, from beyond, uplifting

Their minarets of snow.

The roaring camp-fire, with rude humour, painted

The ruddy tints of health

On haggard face and form that drooped and
fainted

In the fierce race for wealth ;

Till one arose, and from his pack's scant treasure

A hoarded volume drew,

And cards were dropped from hands of listless
leisure

To hear the tale anew ;

And then, while round them shadows gathered
faster,

And as the fire-light fell,
He read aloud the book wherein the Master

Had writ of ' Little Nell.'

Perhaps 'twas boyish fancy for the reader
Was youngest of them all

P



226 ENGLISH VERSE

But, as he read, from clustering pine and cedar
A silence seemed to fall ;

The fir-trees, gathering closer in the shadows,

Listened in every spray,

While the whole camp, with ' Nell ' on English
meadows,

Wandered and lost their way.

And so in mountain solitudes o'ertaken

As by some spell divine

Their cares dropped from them like the needles
shaken

From out the gusty pine.

Lost is that camp, and wasted all its fire ;

And he who wrought that spell ? .
Ah, towering pine and stately Kentish spire,

Ye have one tale to tell !

Lost is that camp ! but let its fragrant story
Blend with the breath that thrills

With hop- vines' incense all the pensive glory
That fills the Kentish hills.

And on that grave where English oak and holly

And laurel wreaths entwine,
Deem it not all a too presumptuous folly,

This spray of Western pine !



AUSTIN DOBSON

ccxxxv
BEFORE SEDAN

The dead hand clasped a letter.' Special
Correspondence.

Here in this leafy place

Quiet he lies,
Cold, with his sightless face

Turned to the skies.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 227

'Tis but another dead ;
All you can say is said.

Carry his body hence

Kings must have slaves ;
Kings climb to eminence

Over men's graves :
So this man's eye is dim ;
Throw the earth over him.

What was the white you touched,

There, at his side ?
Paper his hand had clutched

Tight ere he died ;
Message or wish, maybe ;
Smooth the folds out, and see.

Hardly the worst of us

Here could have smiled !
Only the tremulous

Words of a child ;
Prattle, that has for stops
Just a few ruddy drops.

Look. She is sad to miss,

Morning and night,
His her dead father's kiss ;

Tries to be bright,
Good to Mamma, and sweet.
That is all. ' Marguerite.'

Ah, if beside the dead

Slumbered the pain !
Ah, if the hearts that bled

Slept with the slain !
If the grief died ; But no ;
Death will not have it so,



228 ENGLISH VERSE

THOMAS HARDY

CCXXXVI

THE ROMAN ROAD

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare ;

Visioning on the vacant air

Helmed legionaries, who proudly rear

The Eagle, as they pace again

The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmed legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother's form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare

The Roman Road.



ccxxxvn
CHRISTMAS EVE

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

' Now they are all on their knees,'
An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years ! Yet, I feel,
If some one said on Christmas Eve,

' Come ; see the oxen kneel



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 229

' In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,'
I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.



HARRIET ELEANOR HAMILTON-KING

CCXXXVIII

WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN ?

Father and mother, many a year

In rain and sunshine we have lived here,

And the children

And now that the winter days are come,
We wait and rest in our own old home ;

But where are the children ?

All so young, in the times of old

Not a lamb was missing from our fold,

And the children

God's ways are narrow, the world is wide,
I would have guarded them at my side ;

But where are the children ?

We walk to the house of God alone,

From the last year's nest the birds have flown,

And the children
Alone by the silent hearth we sit,
The chambers are ready, the fires are lit ;

But where are the children ?

My life is failing, my hair is grey,
I have seen the old years pass away,

And the children
My steps are feeble, my voice is low,
I am longing to bless you ere I go :

But where are the children ?

I had a dream of another home ;
I thought when He called us I should come,
And the children



230 ENGLISH VERSE

And say, at the feet of Our Father in Heaven,
Here am I, with those Thou hast given :
But where are the children ?

The Day of the Lord is coming on ;

We shall meet again before God's throne,

And the children

Father and Mother, we trust, shall stand
Together then at God's right hand :

But where are the children ?



JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS

CCXXXIX

THE CHORISTER

Snow on the high-pitched minster roof and

spire :

Snow on the boughs of leafless linden trees :
Snow on the silent streets and squares that

freeze
Under night's wing, down-drooping nigh and

nigher.

Inside the church, within the shadowy choir,
Dim burn the lamps like lights on vaporous

seas ;

Drowsed are the voices of droned litanies ;
Blurred as in dreams the face of priest and

friar.
Cold hath numbed sense to slumber here ! But

hark,

One swift soprano, soaring like a lark,
Startles the stillness ; throbs that soul of fire,
Beats around arch and aisle, floods echoing dark
With exquisite aspiration ; higher, higher,
Yearns in sharp anguish of untold desire !



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 231

CCXL

FOR ONE OF GIAN BELLINI'S LITTLE
ANGELS

My task it is to stand beneath the throne,

To stand and wait, while those grave pres-
ences,

Prophet and priest and saint and seraph, zone
Our Lady with the Child upon her knees :
They from mild lips receive the messages

Of peace and love, which thence to men below

They shower soft-falling like pure flakes of snow.

I meanwhile wait ; and very mute must be
My music, lest I break the golden trance

Of bliss celestial, or with childish glee
Trouble the fount of divine utterance.
Yet when those lips are tired of speech, per-
chance

It may be that the royal Babe will lie

And slumber to my whispered lullaby :

Then all those mighty brows will rest, and peace
Descend like dew on that high company.

Therefore I stand and wait, but do not cease
To clasp my lute, that silver melody,
When our dear Lady bends her smile on me,

Forth from my throat and from these thrilling
strings

Dove-like may soar and spread ethereal wings.

ROBERT BUCHANAN

CCXLI

THE PILGRIM AND THE HERDBOY
Pilgrim

Little Herdboy, sitting there,
With the sunshine on thy hair,



232 ENGLISH VERSE

And thy flocks so white and still
Spilt around thee on the hill,
Tell me true, in thy sweet speech,
Of the City I would reach.

Tis a City of God's Light
Most imperishably bright.
And its gates are golden all,
And at dawn and evenfall
They grow ruby-bright and blest
To the east and to the west.

Here, among the hills, it lies.
Like a lamb with lustrous eyes
Lying at the Shepherd's feet ;
And the breath of it is sweet,
As it rises from the sward
To the nostrils of the Lord !

Little Herdboy, tell me right,
Hast thou seen it from thy height ?
For it lieth up this way,
And at dawn or death of day
Thou hast surely seen it shine
With the light that is divine.

The little Herdboy

Where the buttercups so sweet
Dust with gold my naked feet,
Where the grass grows green and long,
Sit I here and sing my song,
And the brown bird cries ' Cuckoo '
Under skies for ever blue !

Now and then, while I sing loud,
Flits a little fleecy cloud,
And uplooking I behold
How it turns to rain of gold,
Falling lightly, while around
Comes the stir of its soft sound !

Bright above and dim below
Is the many-colour'd Bow ;



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 233

"Tis the only light I mark,

Till the mountain-tops grow dark,

And uplooking I espy

Shining glow-worms in the sky ;

Then I hear the runlet's call,
And the voice o' the waterfall
Growing louder, and 'tis cold
As I guide my flocks to fold ;
But no City, great or small,
Have I ever seen at all !



JAMES RHOADES

CCXLII

TO TWO IN INDIA
(Of Janet, aged 5)

To-day I saw your little Jan,

You two in India far away,
A dainty sylph that laughed and ran

Upon the summer lawns at play :
Dark-eyed with elfin locks of gold,

A medley quaint of grave and gay,
Of coy and forward, young and old

I saw your little Jan to-day.

She paused amidst her paradise,

A lofty scorn was in her ken,
Half scanning with reluctant eyes

The monster, me. A sprite, a wren.
The shy beginnings of a girl,

A saucy nymph, a wayward fay,
A dewdrop prisoned in a pearl

I saw your little Jan to-day.

Anon to battledore she sped,

Or turned with flying puss to fly,

Or seized the terrier by the head,
Unconscious of her cruelty.



234 ENGLISH VERSE

Her pout is an incarnate kiss,

She smiles, a sunbeam strikes the may !
Her whim is law : you'll know by this


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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 12 of 20)