L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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I saw your little Jan to-day.

No news I send you : 'tis the heart

In exile hungers, not the brain :
What need to prate of Church and mart,

Or Curzon and his coming reign ?
Of statesman or of diplomat

The more that's said, the more's to say ;
Kingdoms may wane, but what of that ?

I saw your little Jan to-day.



CCXLIII

From 'LOVELINESS IN MINIATURE

Little maiden, fairy May
Fairer than all song can say,
Buoyant as the breeze of spring,
Blithe as butterflies a-wing,
Pure and fine the soul must be
That can thus ethereally,
And in earthly mould, express
All its own unearthliness.

Like the sudden smiles that flit
(Spring comes back to think of it)
O'er the face of April, seen
But to vanish and have been.
So the swift vicissitude
Of each gay and pensive mood ;
Sweet at rest thou art, and sweet
Roving, sweetest when the feet,
That will neither walk nor stay,
Dance adown the common way.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 235



A CHILDREN'S SONG

Every day from morn to night
Love and laughter and heart's delight,
Every night from eve till morn
Dewy dreams by the Angels borne :
Only believe, and it all conies true,
This is our message to you and you :
This is the charm we children weave
Down in the meadows of make-believe.

List to the lilt of the children's song !
Never a thought or fear of wrong !

Little tongues utter it,

Little hearts flutter it,
Flutter and utter it all day long.

Nothing is real that brings annoy,
Earth brims over with unseen joy :
Lonely wanderer, shut your eyes,
Golden palaces gleam and rise,
Golden lovers appear, to woo ;
Only believe, and it all comes true ;
This is the spell the Wee Folk weave
Round the believers in make-believe.

Can you not see them, can you not hear,
Thronging the marge of our magic mere,
Couched on a bull-rush-tip for bed,
Hanging in air on a spider's thread,
Or, if the windy ways they'ld track,
Mounted aloft on dragon-fly-back ?
These are the joys our eyes receive
Here in the meadows of make-believe.

Ah ! but why do you doubt, or why
Sadden, and so grow old and die ?
' We have forgotten to laugh,' you say,
' Can we again grow young and gay



236 ENGLISH VERSE

Only believe that the good is true ? '
Why, it is all there is to do,
All that we children learn to weave
Down in the meadows of make-believe.

List to the lilt of the children's song !
Never a thought or fear of wrong !

Little tongues utter it,

Little hearts flutter it,
Flutter and utter it all day long.



EDWARD DOWDEN

CCXLV

A CHILD'S NOONDAY SLEEP

Because you sleep, my child, with breathing light

As heave of the June sea,
Because your lips' soft petals dewy-bright

Dispart so tenderly ;

Because the slumbrous warmth is on your cheek

Up from the hushed heart sent,
And in this midmost noon when winds are
weak

No cloud lies more content ;

Because nor song of bird, nor lamb's keen call

May reach you sunken deep,
Because your lifted arm I thus let fall

Heavy with perfect sleep ;

Because all will is drawn from you, all power,

And Nature through dark roots
Will hold and nourish you for one sweet hour

Amid her flowers and fruits ;

Therefore though tempests gather, and the gale

Through autumn skies will roar,
Though Earth sent up to heaven the ancient wail

Heard by dead Gods of yore ;






ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 237

Though spectral faiths contend, and for her course

The soul confused must try,
While through the whirl of atoms and of force

Looms an abandoned sky ;

Yet know I, Peace abides, of earth's wild things

Centre, and ruling thence ;
Behold, a spirit folds her budded wings

In confident innocence.



FREDERIC W. H. MYERS

CCXLVI

AS LITTLE CHILDREN

Who with prayers has overtaken
Those glad hours when he would waken
To the sound of branches shaken

By an early song and wild,
When the golden leaves would nicker.
And the loving thoughts come thicker,
And the thrill of life beat quicker

In the sweet heart of the child ?

CCXLVII
INNOCENCE

Thro' what new world, this happy hour,
What wild romance, what faery bower,

Are Nelly's fancies flown ?
The dreamy eyes, the eager mind,
Of all imagined homes shall find

None sweeter than her own.

The best is truest ; that was best
When Nelly, heart and soul at rest.

Knelt at the vesper-prayer ;
No poet's dream, methought, could shed
O'er that unconscious childly head

So high a light and fair.



ENGLISH VERSE

For innocence is Eden still ;

Round the pure heart, the loving will,

Heaven's hosts encamped abide ;
A Presence that I may not name
Thro' souls unknowing guilt or shame

Walks in the eventide.



CCXLVIII
TO ALICE'S PICTURE

Unconscious child, fair pictured Phantasy !
More than thy song I from those lips have heard,
More than thy thought have guessed in look and

word,

More than thyself mine eyes adore in thee !
Thou art the promise of Earth's joy to be,
Days to our days by Fate how far preferred !
By stranger loveliness more softly stirred,
By purer passions taught tranquillity.

Nay, hoped I not thro' Death's swift-soaring ways
Mine own poor self some glory unknown to
know,

If, slowly darkening from delightful days,
I to mere night must gird myself and go,

Then on thy face I should not dare to gaze
For wild rebellion and for yearning woe.



EDWARD CARPENTER

CCXLIX

THE BABE

The trio perfect : the man, the woman, and the

babe :
And herein all Creation.

The two, with wonder in their eyes, from oppo-
site worlds
Of sex, of ancestry, pursuits, traditions,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 239

Each other suddenly, amazed, confronting
A nameless glory each in each surmising.

A frenzy as of Gods

Imperial rage, flinging the goods of the world

aside as dross, to reach to a priceless

treasure :

[He madly invasive,

She deeply wise, and drawing farther back
Even to the gates of Paradise as he approaches :]
Strange ecstasy of warfare !
Seisin and ravishment of souls and bodies,
Veils rent asunder,
Heaven opening measureless, overhead, in

splendour,
And all life changed, transfigured !

And then a calm.

Weeks of humdrum and mortal commonplace,

And months perchance in monotone of toil,

But still behind it all some deep remembrance,

Some sure reliance,

And sweet and secret knowledge in each other.

And then the Babe :

A tiny perfect sea-shell on the shore

By the waves gently laid (the awful waves !)

By trembling hands received a folded message

A babe yet slumbering, with a ripple on its face

Remindful of the ocean.

And two twined forms that overbend it, smiling,
And wonder to what land Love must have

journeyed.
Who brought this back this word of sweetest

meaning :
Two lives made one, and visible as one.

And herein all Creation.



240 ENGLISH VERSE



ALICE

With little red frock in the fire-light, in the

lingering April evening
(The moonlight over the tree-tops just beginning

to shine in at the cottage door)
Her big brown eyes and comical big mouth for

very gladness unresting, like a small brown

fairy
She stands, the five-year-old child.

Then, so gentle, with tiny tripping speech, and
with a little wave of the hand

' Good- night,' she says to the fire and to the
moon,

And kissing the elder wearier faces,

Runs off to bed and to sleep in the lap of heaven



ROBERT BRIDGES

CCLI

BE LIKE ONE OF THESE

When I see childhood on the threshold seize
The prize of life from age and likelihood,
I mourn time's change that will not be with-
stood,

Thinking how Christ said Be like one of these.
For in the forest among many trees
Scarce one in all is found that hath made good
The virgin pattern of its slender wood,
That courtesied in joy to every breeze ;

But scath'd, but knotted trunks that raise on

high

Their arms in stiff contortion, strain'd and bare ;
Whose patriarchal crowns in sorrow sigh.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 241

So, little children, ye na-y, nay, ye ne'er
From me shall learn how sure the change and

nigh,
When ye shall share our strength and mourn to

share.

CCLII
POOR CHILD

On a mournful day

When my heart was lonely,
O'er and o'er my thought

Conned but one thing only.

Thinking how I lost

Wand'ring in the wild-wood

The companion self

Of my careless childhood.

How, poor child, it was

I shall ne'er discover,
But 'twas just when he

Grew to be thy lover,

With thine eyes of trust

And thy mirth, whereunder
All the world's hope lay

In thy heart of wonder.

Now, beyond regrets

And faint memories of thee,

Saddest is, poor child,
That I cannot love thee.



CCLIII
MILLICENT

Thou dimpled Millicent, of merry guesses,
Strong-limb'd and tall, tossing thy wayward

tresses,

What mystery of the heart can so surprise
The mirth and music of thy brimming eyes ?

Q



242 ENGLISH VERSE

Pale-brow, them knowest not and diest to learn
The mortal secret that doth in thee burn ;
With look imploring ' If you love me, tell,
What is it in me that you love so well ? '

And suddenly thou stakest all thy charms,
And leapest on me ; and in thy circling arms
When almost stifled with their wild embrace,
I feel thy hot tears sheltering on my face.



SARAH CHAUNCEY WOOLSEY
(SUSAN COOLIDGE)



THE CRADLE-TOMB
IN KING HENRY VII.'S CHAPEL
A little rudely-sculptured bed,

With shadowing folds of marble lace,
And quilt of marble primly spread,
And folded round a baby's face ;

Smoothly the mimic coverlet,

With royal blazonries bedight,
Hangs as by tender fingers set

And straightened for a last good-night.

And traced upon the pillowing stone

A dent is seen, as if, to bless
That quiet sleep, some grieving one

Had leaned and left a soft impress.

It seems no more than yesterday

Since that sad mother, down the stair

And down the long aisle, stole away
And left her darling sleeping there.

But dust upon the cradle lies
And those who prized the baby so,

And decked her couch with heavy sighs,
Are turned to dust long years ago,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 243

Above the peaceful pillowed head

Three centuries brood ; and strangers peep

And wonder at the carven bed
But not unwept the baby's sleep.

For wistful mother-eyes are blurred
With sudden mists, as lingerers stray,

And the old dusts are roused and stirred
By the warm tear-drops of to-day.

Soft, furtive hands caress the stone,
And hearts, o'erleaping place and age,

Melt into memories and own
A thrill of common parentage.

Men die, but sorrow never dies
The crowding years divide in vain,

And the wide world is knit with ties
Of common brotherhood in pain

Of common share in grief and loss,
And heritage in the immortal bloom

Of love, which, flowering round the Cross,
Made beautiful a baby's tomb.



WILLIAM CANTON

CCLV

LA US INFANTIUM

In praise of little children I will say

God first made man, then found a better way

For woman, but His third way was the best :

Of all created things the loveliest

And most divine are children. Nothing here

Can be to us more precious or more dear.

And though, when God saw all His works were

good,

There was no rosy flower of babyhood,
'Twas said of children in a later day
That none could enter Heaven save such as they.



244 ENGLISH VERSE

The earth, which feels the flowering of a thorn,
Was glad, O little child, when you were born ;
The earth, which thrills when skylarks scale the

blue,

Soared up itself to God's own Heaven in you.
And Heaven, which loves to lean down and to glass
Its beauty in each dewdrop on the grass
Heaven laughed to find your face so pure and fair,
And left, O little child, its reflex there.



CCLVI
B UBBLE-BLO WING

Our plot is small, but sunny limes
Shut out all cares and troubles,

And there my little girl at times
And I sit blowing bubbles.

The screaming swifts race to and fro,

Bees cross the ivied paling,
Draughts lift and set the globes we blow

In freakish currents sailing.

They glide, they dart, they soar, they break,

Oh, joyous little daughter !
What lovely coloured worlds we make,

What crystal flowers of water !

One, green and rosy, slowly drops ;

One soars and shines a minute,
And carries to the lime-tree tops

Our home, reflected in it.

The gable, with cream rose in bloom,
She sees from roof to basement ;

' Oh, father, there's your little room ! '
She cries in glad amazement.

To her, enchanted with the gleam,

The glamour and the glory,
The bubble home's a home of dream,

And I must tell its story :



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 245

Tell what we did, and how we played,

And lived, divinely double
A father and his merry maid

Whose world was in a bubble !



A PHILOSOPHER

Yes, you may let them creep about the rug,
And stir the fire ! Aha ! that's bright and snug,
To think these mites ay, nurse, unfold the

screen !

Should be as ancient as the Miocene ;
That ages back beneath a palm-tree's shade
These rosy little quadrupeds have played,
Have cried for moons or mammoths, and have

blacked
Their faces round the Drift Man's fire in

fact,

That ever since the articulate race began
These babes have been the joy and plague of

man !

Unnoticed by historian and sage,

These bright-eyed chits have been from age
to age

The one supreme majority. I find

Mankind have been their slaves, and woman-
kind

Their worshippers ; and both have lived in
dread

Of time and tyrants ; toiled and wept and
bled,

Because of some quaint elves they called their
own.

Had little ones in Egypt been unknown,

No Pharaoh would have had the power,
methinks,

To pile the Pyramids or carve the Sphinx.



246 ENGLISH VERSE

Take them to bed, nurse ; but, before she goes,
Papa must toast his little woman's toes.
Strange that such feeble hands and feet as

these
Have sped the lamp-race of the centuries !



CCLVIII
THE LITTLE SHOES

These little shoes ! How proud she was of these !

Can you forget how, sitting on your knees,
She used to prattle volubly, and raise
Her tiny feet to win your wondering praise ?
Was life too rough for feet so softly shod,
That now she walks in Paradise with God,
Leaving but these whereon to dote and muse
These little shoes ?

1870



Upon a time, among the folk who sought

Surcease of suffering from Asklepios,

Was brought a schoolboy from the white-walled

town

Upon the rocky point Euphanes, frail,
And fever-flushed, and weak with grievous pain ;
And as the lad, beneath the clement stars,
Lay wandering in his mind, and dreamed per-
chance

Of sailing little triremes on the shore,
Or making, it might be, a locust cage
With reeds and stalks of asphodel beneath
The trellised vines, it seemed as though the god
Stood by him in the holy night and spoke :
' What wilt thou give me, little playfellow,
If I shall cure thy sickness ? ' And the lad,
Thinking what pleasure schoolboys have in these,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 247

Replied : 'I'll give thee my ten marbles, god ! '
Asklepios laughed, right gladdened with the gift,
And said : ' Then, truly, I will make thee well ! '
And lo ! when morning whitened on the hills,
And in the valley's dusk the sacred cock
Clapped wings and sang, the urchin went forth
whole !

Full four-and-twenty centuries ago

Euphanes saw the god ; and yesterday

The pillar bearing record of the cure

Was dug from wreck of war and drift of years.

' Ten marbles ! quoth the child. A sklepios

laughed ;

But on the morrow forth the lad went whole.'
Thus closely had the Greek in ancient times
Through some prophetic prompting of pure love
God's unfulfilled events divining drawn
Man's heart unto the human heart in God.



JOHN BANNISTER TABB

CCLX

BEDTIME :



When first her Christmas watch to keep
Came down the silent angel, Sleep,

With snowy sandals shod,
Beholding what His mother's hands
Had wrought, with softer swaddling-bands

She swathed the Son of God.

Then, skilled in mysteries of night,
With tender visions of delight

She wreathed His resting place,
Till, wakened by a warmer glow
Than heaven itself had yet to show,

He saw His mother's face.



248 ENGLISH VERSE



CCLXI

SURVIVAL

The tempest past
A home in ruin laid ;

But lo ! where last

The little children played

At hide-and-seek,

A footprint small

Pleads silently,

As if afraid to speak.

' Behold in me

A memory,

The least and last of all ! '



GEORGE BARLOW

CCLXII

THE DEAD CHILD

But yesterday she played with childish things,

With toys and painted fruit.
To-day she may be speeding on bright wings

Beyond the stars ! We ask. The stars are
mute.

But yesterday her doll was all in all ;

She laughed and was content.
To-day she will not answer, if we call :

She dropp'd no toys to show the road she went.

But yesterday she smiled and ranged with art

Her playthings on the bed.
To-day and yesterday are leagues apart !

She will not smile to-day, for she is dead.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 249



EDMUND GOSSE

CCLXIII
TO TERESA

Dear child of mine, the wealth of whose warm
hair

Hangs like ripe clusters of the apricot,

Thy blue eyes, gazing, comprehend me not,
But love me, and for love alone I care ;
Thou listenest with a shy and serious air,

Like some Sabrina from her weedy grot

Outpeeping coyly when the noon is hot
To watch some shepherd piping unaware.
'Twas not for thee I sang, dear child ; and yet

Would that my song could reach such ears as

thine,
Pierce to young hearts unsullied by the fret

Of years in their white innocence divine ;
Crowned with a wreath of buds still dewy-wet,

O what a fragrant coronal were mine !



ON THE DEA TH OF HIS FIRST-BORN SON

My first-born boy, whose beautiful dead face
Watching, I marvelled what mysterious charm
Had changed that look of anguish and alarm
To radiant peace and more than mortal grace,
So passing fair that, for a moment's space,
Methought an angel held thee safe from harm,
Thy head soft-pillowed on her fondling arm,
Ere she upbore thee to the better place :
'Twas but a little wound that pierced my

heart,
Dealt by the dagger of that last long kiss :



250 ENGLISH VERSE

Thy brother came and played his baby part
With such sweet skill, that in my new-found

bliss

I learned my loss ; and now Time's magic art.
Which heals all other wounds, but deepens this.



CCLXV
CHILDHOOD'S HOME

I passed through the open gateway and under

the bending trees :
The boughs of the stooping beeches stirred in the

summer breeze :
The branching shadows fluttered as asleep on

the lawn they lay :
And up through the sunny meadow the avenue

wound its way.

I passed through the open gateway and I was a

child again :
The grass and the leaves were sparkling in jewels

of last night's rain :
But lo ! a turn in the pathway clouded my eyes

with tears ;
And I stood and gazed in rapture on the home

of my early years.

The same and yet I marvelled, for surely of

old it stood
Fronting a boundless meadow, on the skirts of

a sombre wood,-
With a stately hill behind it, from whose height

I used to gaze
To where the horizon bounded the world of my

childish days.

But the hill was a little hillock the wood was

a little grove :
'Twas only a little paddock through which I

loved to rove :



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 251

I climbed, but the wizard fancy had somewhere

lost his wand :
I looked to the far horizon, but the whole world

lay beyond.

Yet the grass had its wonted verdure the sun

had its wonted gold
The raindrops trembled and sparkled, as ever in

days of old :
And clouds were ne'er more fleecy, and never a

fresher breeze
Passed with a crisper murmur through depths of

the greenwood trees.

And I wondered if one of the dear ones, who left

us and went his way
Into the kingdom of twilight misty and cold and

grey,
Could rise from the depths of silence and come

for a little while,
And hear the breezes rustle and see the green

earth smile ;

Would the earth he had left behind him the

earth he had loved so well
That once was higher than heaven, and deeper

than depths of hell
Seem now but a mote in the sunbeam, a drop in

the water race,
Its life the pulse of a moment a foothold its

orb of space ?

Would he learn that its ancient limits, now

grown so narrow and near,
Had veiled from imagination the skirts of a

boundless sphere ?
Would he look to the utmost verges that ever

his feet had trod,
And still find far beyond them the world of the

Heaven of God ?



252 ENGLISH VERSE

Yet perchance as he gazed around him a tear of

regret might rise,
And blot for a passing moment all else but earth

from his eyes :
He would murmur ' Oh God, I know Thee in the

least of Thy works complete :
It is all as of old I left it , and then it was oh !

how sweet.'



ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

CCLXVI

THE LAMPLIGHTER

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the

sky ;
It's time to take the window to see Leerie going

by;
For every night at teatime and before you take

your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting

up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to

sea,

And my papa's a banker and as rich as he can be ;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what

I'm to do,
O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the

lamps with you !

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the
door,

And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many
more ;

And O ! before you hurry by with ladder and
with light,

O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-
night !



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 253

CCLXVII

THE UNSEEN PLAYMATE

When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him and nobody saw,

He is a picture you never could draw,

But he's sure to be present, abroad or at home,

When children are happy and playing alone.

He lies in the laurels, he runs on the grass,
He sings when you tinkle the musical glass ;
Whene'er you are happy and cannot tell why,
The Friend of the Children is sure to be by !

He loves to be little, he hates to be big,
'Tis he that inhabits the caves that you dig ;
'Tis he when you play with your soldiers of tin
That sides with the Frenchmen and never can win.

'Tis he, when at night you go off to your bed,
Bids you go to your sleep and not trouble your

head ;

For wherever they're lying, in cupboard or shelf,
'Tis he will take care of your playthings himself !

CCLXVIII
SHADOW MARCH

All round the house is the jet-black night ;

It stares through the window-pane ;
It crawls in the corners, hiding from the light,
And it moves with the moving flame.

Now my little heart goes a-beating like a drum.

With the breath of the Bogie in my hair ;
And all round the candle the crooked shadows

come
And go marching along up the stair,



254 ENGLISH VERSE

The shadow of the balusters, the shadow of the

lamp,

The shadow of the child that goes to bed
All the wicked shadows coming tramp, tramp,

tramp,
With the black night overhead.



CCLXIX
ENVOY TO MINNIE

The red room with the giant bed

Where none but elders laid their head ;

The little room where you and I

Did for awhile together lie

And, simple suitor, I your hand

In decent marriage did demand ;

The great day nursery, best of all,

With pictures pasted on the wall

And leaves upon the blind

A pleasant room wherein to wake

And hear the leafy garden shake

And rustle in the wind

And pleasant there to lie in bed

And see the pictures overhead

The wars about Sebastopol,

The grinning guns along the wall,

The daring escalade,

The plunging ships, the bleating sheep,

The happy children ankle-deep

And laughing as they wade :

All these are vanished clean away,

And the old manse is changed to-day ;

It wears an altered face

And shields a stranger race.

The river, on from mill to mill,

Flows past our childhood's garden still

But ah ! we children never more

Shall watch it from the water-door !

Below the yew it still is there



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 255

Our phantom voices haunt the air
As we were still at play,
And I can hear them call and say :
' How far is it to Babylon ? '

Ah, far enough, my dear,
Far, far enough from here
Yet you have farther gone !

' Can I get there by candlelight ? '
So goes the old refrain.
I do not know perchance you might
But only children hear it right,
Ah, never to return again !
The eternal dawn, beyond a doubt,
Shall break on hill and plain,
And put all stars and candles out
Ere we be young again.

To you in distant India, these

I send across the seas,

Nor count it far across.

For which of us forgets


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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 13 of 20)