L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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The Indian cabinets,

The bones of antelope, the wings of albatross,

The pied and painted birds and beans,

The junks and bangles, beads and screens,

The gods and sacred bells,

And the loud-humming, twisted shells ?

The level of the parlour floor

Was honest, homely, Scottish shore ;

But when we climbed upon a chair,

Behold the gorgeous East was there !

Be this a fable ; and behold
Me in the parlour as of old,
And Minnie just above me set
In the quaint Indian cabinet !
Smiling and kind, you grace a shelf
Too high for me to reach myself.
Reach down a hand, my dear, and take
These rhymes for old acquaintance' sake !



256 ENGLISH VERSE



CCLXX

ENVOY TO ANY READER

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear ; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away.
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.



ANNIE MATHESON

CCLXXI

TO A LITTLE CHILD

Clear eyes of heaven's chosen hue
When not a cloud is seen above

To fleck the warm untroubled blue,
A little laughing face of love ;

A boundless energy of life

In dimpled arms and rosy feet ;

No breath of care, no touch of strife,

Has dulled thy glad heart's rhythmic beat.

So girt about with golden light,
By shadows still so little vexed,

That many a weary anxious wight
Grows in thy presence less perplexed,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 257

Our smiles come at thy fairy beck,
Frowns pass away at thy caress ;

When thy soft arms are round my neck
I feel God's wondrous tenderness.



WILLIAM JAMES DAWSON

CCLXXII

THE SLEEPING MOTHER

How still the vast depths of this City's heart !
At last the ever-moaning tide of life
Is quiet, and, sweet mother, wearied thou
With the babe's wailing and its piteous strife,
Thou too, worn in love's toil, art tranquil now.
I watch thee, and I think how fair thou art
In this deep-lidded sleep ; the uncoiled hair
Piled round the high clear brow, one white arm

bare

On which lies warm the little golden head
Wearier even than thine. And now I see
How sunk thine eyes are, and that forehead fair,
How fretted with faint lines unmerited
So early ; and reproach lays hold of me,
That I have led thee from thy pastures green
To these steep slopes where we are bowed with

care.

Yet if thou should'st awake and read my thought,
I know thine eyes would fill with light serene,
And thou would'st say, ' This burden have I

sought,

This service is a perfect liberty ;
This City of Love, whose pulse of love beats

quick

With strenuous tasks, is it not better far
Than virgin pastures, where the air is thick
With golden languors and a dull content ? '
Great joy hath woman when that time is spent,
And on her life there rises that new star
Which leads her feet where mother-raptures are.



258 ENGLISH VERSE

MARGARET L. WOODS

CCLXXIII
THE CHILD ALONE

'Tis a pleasant thing to be free.

Nobody knows, nobody guesses
What I am doing, where I am staying.
' Where is Marjorie ? ' mother is saying.
Julie, who loves to sit making her dresses,

Says, ' She is. playing

Under the tree.'

No through the jungle Marjorie passes.
Sometimes I run, sometimes I stand
Still in a covert of high waving grasses,

Over my head.
Wilderness ways, uninhabited land,

Lone I explore.

Hares in the grass, mice where I tread,

Look up and wonder ;

Or the squirrel flashes

Red as he dashes
Over the leafy forest floor.

Then in the tree

High sits he

And mocks me under ;
While all of them, all of them wonder, wonder

What I can be.

I was a child, a little child,
I am a happy creature wild.
I used to have to run or walk
As I was bid, be still or talk ;
To shun the wind or sun or show'r.
And then come in at such an. hour.
I was a child, a little child,
I am a happy creature wild.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 259

For see I wander like a deer

That sniffs about the furrowed bole

Of some great tree, or starts in fear

From every leaf that trembles near ;

Or neighing like a frolic foal

That prances in a field at play,

I gallop farther on my way.

Sometimes a beech-mast tumbles thro',

I strip it daintily to find

The nut within its wooden rind,

And nibbling sit as squirrels do.

I was a child, a little child,

I am a happy creature wild.

Now, now again,
Reversing the spell,
Turning this plain
Little ring on my finger,
See I regain

Form of a child, spirit as well.
Yet I am free, no one can tell
Margie to haste, come and not linger.
Turn it again, thrice must it turn,
Thrice the sunlight flicker and burn
Deep in the heart of its single gem
And see I ride from Jerusalem.

I am a knight ; the paynim horde
Have felt the weight of this good sword
About the sepulchre of Our Lord.

'Tis a sinister woodland deep and wide,
Alone I ride.

Saint Hubert scatter the demon breed !
Mary Mother be my guide !

Up the glade at rushing speed,

What comes shining, what comes sweeping ?
'Tis a band of mailed men
And a lady passing fair,
Whom they carry to their den
Gleaming in her golden hair.



260 ENGLISH VERSE

Ha ! I come, like lightning leaping,
Thrust and hew mid caitiff clamour.
Beat the stubborn thorn-bush down !
Cleave and rend the bracken's crown !
Not a stalk be left upright !
Now they know the paynim's hammer,
Now they know King Richard's knight.

Turn, turn again
Magical ring.
I am a Dane
Cunning and brave,
A pirate king.
Swiftly I come over the wave.

The shore, the Saxon town I see.

The smoke hangs blue on roof and tree

At evening over the little town.

I hear the bells in the grey church tow'r.

With fire and sword at midnight hour

I"mean to harry and burn it down.

But fierce as a wolf, as a raven wise,

I come at first in a deep disguise

To the little town.

And when I climb to the nursery yonder

They'll call me Marjorie, and wonder

Why I should want to run away

And be as any rabbit wild ;

For I shall seem to be a child

Named Marjorie. What would they say

If they could know it was instead

A pirate that they put to bed ?



CCLXXIV
ON THE DEATH OF AN INFANT

Alas ! the little child is dead.
O sorrow for the downy head
That used to keep his mother's arm
And bosom warm,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 26!

And now the chilling earth instead
Must hide, for he is dead !

Mourn, mothers, ye who know how sweet
They were, the blossom-coloured feet
That in our dusty pathways yet

No print had set,

So that the world will scarcely mark
Their little track into the dark.
Only for one the baby feet

Have left earth incomplete.

They coldly lie, but she before

The hearth will chafe them now no more,

Nor swing the boy to let him leap,

Who scarce could creep,
In dainty dance upon the floor :

For all his play-time's o'er.

Nor from that slumber where he lies
Shall he with blue half-wakened eyes,
Stir at her shadow o'er him thrown

Or rustling gown,

And dream a smile because her face
Flits through some visionary place.
She need no longer still her cries

Lest he unclose his eyes.

When last she wept how many years
Ago it seems ! he dried her tears
With wandering touches velvet-sleek

Upon her cheek.

Now on his fragile breast she bows
Her shaken mouth and heavy brows,
And holds him fast, while he nor fears

Nor wonders at her tears.

Ye mothers, let her not alone
Make on this little dust her moan,
Be near with looks of love and touch

Not over-much

Her quivering grief with words, but wend
With her to-day made more than friend



2 6-2 ENGLISH VERSE

By ancient mysteries of Earth,
By solemn pangs of death and birth,
Made consecrate, apart, unknown
Save unto you alone.

How lightly borne the little bier,

With all its flowers ! And what is here,

That ye in long processions go,

Sombre and slow,
As who at famous obsequies
Mourn for a world bereaved ? The wise
Will ask in wonder and recall
Some larger grief, or prodigal
Rich waste of Nature ; year by year

Things born to disappear.

But here, within this narrow hearse,
The mystery of the Universe
Doth house as kingly and secure,

As vast and sure
As in the marble or the lead
That hold the world-subduing dead.
Its bare inscription doth contain
More than philosophers explain,
Or mightier poets can rehearse,

Making immortal verse.

And who is she with veiled head ?
She had a name, but now instead
Another. What she was before

She is no more,

Nor what she shall be. In her mind
By ways unknown she seems to wind,
Some endless lapse of time to tread

Slowly behind the dead.

.Ay, this beyond her thought is true.
The seas have shaped their shores anew,
And stars in other courses roll

About the pole,

Since first this mourning way she went.
In Babylon she made lament,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 263

And hath her ancient sorrow hid
'Neath an Egyptian pyramid ;
Yet shall through centuries waste and new
The unchanging road pursue.

She mightier names and powers hath known.
For lilies on her pathway strown,
Out of the unsounded gulf of Heaven

The stars were given.
The deep of Earth's divine desire
Surged round her feet in argent fire,
Its passionate rumour, soft, immense,
Rose up to her through frankincense ;
She took the moon and Hera's throne,

And Aphrodite's zone.

Through warring chaos, primal gloom,
Promethean shape she seems to loom,
Kindling her hearth with holier flame.

Around it came

Man that was beast, and where it burned
A human fellowship he learned.
She first his shelter, she the nurse
Of all he is, for her the curse
Sprung where she made the desert bloom

The chain, the Titan's doom.

Adorn with flowers the darkling gate
Where things majestic pass, with state
Religious and with mourning eyes

Your ministries

Perform, ye mothers. Tell aloud
How that the glorious and the proud
The world's deep wave a moment ride
Like foam, and fade upon its tide.
Tell them that Life alone is great,

And Love and mortal Fate.



264 ENGLISH VERSE

HENRY CHARLES BEECHING

CCLXXV

PR A YERS

God who created me

Nimble and light of limb,
In three elements free,

To run, to ride, to swim :
Not when the sense is dim,

But now from the heart of joy,
I would remember Him :

Take the thanks of a boy.

Jesu, King and Lord,

Whose are my foes to fight,
Gird me with Thy sword

Swift and sharp and bright.
Thee would I serve if I might ;

And conquer if I can,
From day-dawn till night,

Take the strength of a man.

Spirit of Love and Truth,

Breathing in grosser clay,
The light and flame of youth,

Delight of men in the fray,
Wisdom in strength's decay ;

From pain, strife, wrong to be free,
This best gift I pray,

Take my spirit to Thee.

CCLXXVI
GOING DOWNHILL ON A BICYCLE

(A Boy's Song)

With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind ;
The air goes by in a wind.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 265

Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the hmgs laugh, the throat cry :
' O bird, see ; see, bird, I fly ! '

' Is this, is this your joy ?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air ! '

Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss ?
"Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.

Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat ;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.

Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale ; but still,
Who climbs with toil, whereso'er,
Shall find wings waiting there.



JAMES KENNETH STEPHEN

CCLXXVII

BLUE HILLS. AN ALLEGORY

Years ago, in the land of my birth,
When my head was little above the earth,
I stood by the side of the grass-blades tall,
And a quickset hedge was a mighty wall,
And a measureless forest I often found
In a swampy acre of rush-clad ground :
But, when I could see it, the best of the view
Was a distant circle, the Hills of Blue.

Higher we grow as the long years pass,
And I now look down on the growing grass ;
I see the top where I saw the side,
Some beauties are lost as the view grows wide,



266 ENGLISH VERSE

I see over things that I couldn't see through :
But my limit is still the Hills of Blue.

As a child I sought them, and found them not,

Footsore and weary, tired and hot ;

They were still the bulwark of all I could see,

And still at a fabulous distance from me ;

I wondered if age and strength could teach

How to traverse the plain, the mountains

reach ;

Meanwhile, whatever a child might do,
They still were far and they still were blue.

Well I've reached them at last, those distant

Hills ;

I've reached their base through a world of ills ;
I have toiled and laboured and wandered far,
With my constant eyes on a shifting star :
And ever, as nearer I came, they grew,
Larger and larger, but ah ! less blue.

Green I have found them, green and brown,
Studded with houses, o'erhanging a town,
Feeding the plain below with streams,
Dappled with shadows and brightening with

beams.

Image of scenes I had left behind,
Merely a group of the hilly kind :
And beyond them a prospect as fair to view
As the old, and bounded by Hills as blue.

But I will not seek those further Hills,
Nor travel the course of the outward rills ;
I have lost the faith of my childhood's day ;
Let me dream (it is only a dream) while I

may ;

I will put my belief to no cruel test :
As I doze on this green deceptive crest,
I will try to believe, as I used to do,
There are some Blue Hills which are really blue.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 267
FRANCIS THOMPSON

CCLXXVIII

LITTLE JESUS

Ex ore infantium, Deus, el lactentium
perfecisti laudem.

Little Jesus, wast Thou shy
Once, and just so small as I ?
And what did it feel like to be
Out of Heaven, and just like me ?
Didst Thou sometimes think of there,
And ask where all the angels were ?
I should think that I would cry
For my house all made of sky ;
I would look about the air,
And wonder where' my angels were ;
And at waking 'twould distress me
Not an angel there to dress me !

Hadst Thou ever any toys,

Like us little girls and boys ?

And didst Thou play in Heaven with all

The angels that were not too tall,

With stars for marbles ? Did the things

Play Can you see me ? through their wings ?

And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil

Thy robes with playing on our soil ?

How nice to have them always new

In Heaven, because 'twas quite clean blue !

Didst Thou kneel at night to pray,
And didst Thou join Thy hands, this way ?
And did they tire sometimes, being young,
And make the prayer seem very long ?
And dost Thou like it best, that we
Should join our hands to pray to Thee ?
I used to think, before I knew,
The prayer not said unless we do.



268 ENGLISH VERSE

And did Thy Mother at the night
Kiss Thee, and fold the clothes in right ?
And didst Thou feel quite good in bed,
Kissed, and sweet, and Thy prayers said ?

Thou canst not have forgotten all

That it feels like to be small :

And Thou know'st I cannot pray

To Thee in my father's way

When Thou wast so little, say,

Couldst Thou talk Thy Father's way ?

So, a little Child, come down

And hear a child's tongue like Thy own ;

Take me by the hand and walk,

And listen to my baby-talk.

To Thy Father show my prayer

(He will look, Thou art so fair),

And say : ' O Father, I, Thy Son,

Bring the prayer of a little one.'

And He will smile, that children's tongue
Has not changed since Thou wast young !



CCLXXIX
DAISY

Where the thistle lifts a purple crown

Six foot out of the turf,
And the harebell shakes on the windy hill-

O the breath of the distant surf !

The hills look over on the South,
And southward dreams the sea ;

And, with the sea-breeze hand in hand.
Came innocence and she.

Where 'mid the gorse the raspberry

Red for the gatherer springs,
Two children did we stray and talk

Wise, idle, childish things.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 269

She listened with big-lipped surprise,
Breast-deep 'mid flower and spine :

Her skin was like a grape, whose veins
Run snow instead of wine.

She knew not those sweet words she spake,

Nor knew her own sweet way ;
But there's never a bird, so sweet a song

Thronged in whose throat that day !

Oh, there were flowers in Storrington

On the turf and on the spray ;
But the sweetest flower on Sussex hills

Was the Daisy-flower that day !

Her beauty smoothed earth's furrowed face.

She gave me tokens three :
A look, a word of her winsome mouth,

And a wild raspberry.

A berry red, a guileless look,

A still word, strings of sand !
And yet they made my wild, wild heart

Fly down to her little hand.

For, standing artless as the air,

And candid as the skies,
She took the berries with her hand,

And the love with her sweet eyes.

The fairest things have fleetest end :

Their scent survives their close,
But the rose's scent is bitterness

To him that loved the rose.

She looked a little wistfully,

Then went her sunshine way :

The sea's eye had a mist on it,
And the leaves fell from the day.

She went her unremembering way.

She went, and left in me
The pang of all the partings gone,

And partings yet to be.



270 ENGLISH VERSE

She left me marvelling why my soul
Was sad that she was glad ;

At all the sadness in the sweet,
The sweetness in the sad.

Still, still I seemed to see her, still
Look up with soft replies,

And take the berries with her hand,
And the love with her lovely eyes.

Nothing begins, and nothing ends,
That is not paid with moan ;

For we are born in other's pain,
And perish in our own.



CCLXXX

TO OLIVIA

I fear to love thee, Sweet, because
Love's the ambassador of loss ;
White flake of childhood, clinging so
To my soiled raiment, thy shy snow
At tenderest touch will shrink and go.
Love me not, delightful child !
My heart, by many snares beguiled,
Has grown timorous and wild.
It would fear thee not at all,
Wert thou not so harmless-small.
Because thy arrows, not yet dire,
Are still unbarbed with destined fire,
I fear thee more than hadst thou stood
Full-panoplied in womanhood.



CCLXXXI
TO MONICA THOUGHT DYING

You, O the piteous you !

Who all the long night through

Anticipatedly

Disclose yourself to me



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 271

Already in the ways
Beyond our human comfortable days ;

How can you deem what Death

Impitiably saith

To me, who listening wake

For your poor sake ?

When a grown woman dies,
You know we think unceasingly
What things she said, how sweet, how wise ;
And these do make our misery.

But you were (you to me
The dead anticipatedly !)
You eleven years, was't not, or so ?

Were just a child, you know ;

And so you never said
Things sweet immeditatably and wise
To interdict from closure my wet eyes :

But foolish things, my dead, my dead !

Little and laughable,

Your age that fitted well.
And was it such things all unmemorable,

Was it such things could make
Me sob all night for your implacable sake ?

Yet, as you said to me,
In pretty make-believe of revelry,

So, the night long, said Death

With his magniloquent breath ;

(And that remembered laughter,
Which in our daily uses followed after,
Was all untuned to pity and to awe :)

' A cup of chocolate,

One farthing is the rate,

You drink it through a straw.'

How could I know, how know
Those laughing words when drenched with

sobbing so ?
Another voice than yours, than yours, he hath !

My dear, was't worth his breath,
His mighty utterance ? yet he saith, and saith !



272 ENGLISH VERSE

This dreadful Death to his own dreadfulness

Doth dreadful wrong,

This dreadful childish babble on his tongue !
That iron tongue, made to speak sentences
And wisdom insupportably complete,
Why should it only say the long night through,

In mimicry of you,

' A cup of chocolate,

One farthing is the rate,
You drink it through a straw, a straw, a straw ! '

Oh, of all sentences.

Piercingly incomplete !
Why did you teach that fatal mouth to draw,

Child, impermissible awe

From your old trivialness ?

Why have you done me this

Most unsustainable wrong,

And into Death's control
Betrayed the secret places of my soul .?

Teaching him that his lips,
Uttering their native earthquake and eclipse,

Could never so avail
To rend from hem to hem the ultimate veil

Of this most desolate
Spirit, and leave it stripped and desecrate,

Nay, never so have wrung
From eyes and speech weakness unmanned,

unmeet,

As when his terrible dotage to repeat
Its little lesson learneth at your feet ;

As when he sits among

His sepulchres, to play

With broken toys your hand has cast away,
With derelict trinkets of the darling young.
Why have you taught that he might so complete

His awful panoply

From your cast playthings why.
This dreadful childish babble to his tongue,

Dreadful and sweet ?



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 273



CCLXXXII

THE CHILD-WOMAN

O them most dear !
Who art thy sex's complex harmony
God-set more facilely ;
To thee may love draw near
Without one blame or fear,
Unchidden save by his humility :
Thou Perseus' Shield wherein I view secure
The mirrored Woman's fateful-fair allure !
Whom Heaven still leaves a twofold dignity,
As girlhood gentle, and as boyhood free ;
With whom no most diaphanous webs enwind
The bared limbs of the rebukeless mind.
Wild Dryad, all unconscious of thy tree,

With which indissolubly
The tyrannous time shall one day make thee

whole ;
Whose frank arms pass unfretted through its

bole :

Who wear'st thy femineity
Light as entrailed blossoms, that shalt find
It erelong silver shackles unto thee :
Thou whose young sex is yet but in thy soul ;

As hoarded in the vine
Hang the gold skins of undelirious wine,
As air sleeps, till it toss its limbs in breeze ;
In whom the mystery which lures and sunders,
Grapples and thrusts apart, endears,

estranges,
The dragon to its own Hesperides

Is gated under slow-revolving changes.
Manifold doors of heavy-hinged years :

So once, ere Heaven's eyes were filled with

wonders

To see Laughter rise from Tears,
Lay in beauty not yet mighty,
Conched in translucencies,
The antenatal Aphrodite,



274 ENGLISH VERSE

Caved magically under magic seas ;

Caved dreamlessly beneath the dreamful seas.

' Whose sex is in thy soul ! '
What think we of thy soul ?

Which has no parts, and cannot grow,

Unfurled not from an embryo ;
Born. of full stature, lineal to control ;

And yet a pigmy's yoke must undergo ;
Yet must keep pace and tarry, patient, kind,
With its unwilling scholar, the dull, tardy mind ;
Must be obsequious to the body's powers.
Whose low hands mete its paths, set ope and

close its ways ;

Must do obeisance to the days,
And wait the little pleasure of the hours ;

Yea, ripe for kingship, yet must be
Captive in statuted minority !
So is all power fulfilled, as soul in thee.
So still the ruler by the ruled takes rule,
And wisdom weaves itself i' the loom o' the fool.
The splendent sun no splendour can display,
Till on gross things he dash his broken ray,
From cloud and tree and flower re-tossed in

prismy spray.

Did not obstruction's vessel hem it in,
Force were not force, would spill itself in vain ;
We know the Titan by his champed chain.
Stay is heat's cradle, it is rocked therein,
And by check's hand is burnished into light ;
If hate were none, would love burn lowlier

bright ?
God's Fair were guessed scarce but for opposite

sin ;

Yea, and His Mercy, I do think it well,
Is flashed back from the brazen gates of Hell.

The heavens decree
All power fulfil itself as soul in thee.
For supreme Spirit subject was to clay,

And Law from its own servants learned a law,
And Light besought a lamp unto its way,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 275

And Awe was reined in awe,
At one small house of Nazareth ;

And Golgotha

Saw Breath to breathlessness resign its breath,
And Life do homage for its crown to death.



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE

CCLXXXIII

THE BEGINNING

' Where have I come from, where did you pick

me up ? ' the baby asked its mother.
She answered half crying, half laughing, and

clasping the baby to her breast,
' You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my

darling.
You were in the dolls of my childhood's games ;

and when with clay I made the image of my

god every morning, I made and unmade


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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 14 of 20)