L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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you then.
You were enshrined with our household deity,

in his worship I worshipped you.
In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the

life of my mother you have lived.
In the lap of the deathless Spirit who rules our

home you have been nursed for ages.
When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals,

you hovered as a fragrance about it.
Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful

limbs, like a glow in the sky before the sunrise.
Heaven's first darling, twin-born with the

morning light, you have floated down the

stream of the world's life, and at last you

have stranded on my heart.
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me ;

you who belong to all have become mine.
For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my

breast. What magic has snared the world's

treasure in these slender arms of mine ?'



276 ENGLISH VERSE

CCLXXXIV

SUPERIOR

Mother, your baby is silly ! She is so absurdly

childish !
She does not know the difference between the

lights in the streets and the stars.
When we play at eating with pebbles, she thinks

they are real food, and tries to put them

into her mouth.
When I open a book before her and ask her to

learn her a, b, c, she tears the leaves with

her hands and roars for joy at nothing ;

this is your baby's way of doing her lesson.
When I shake my head at her in anger and scold

her and call her naughty, she laughs and

thinks it great fun.
Everybody knows that father is away, but if in

play I call aloud ' Father,' she looks about

her in excitement and thinks that father is

near.
When I hold my class with the donkeys that our

washerman brings to carry away the clothes

and I warn her that I am the schoolmaster,

she will scream for no reason and call me

dada.
Your baby wants to catch the moon. She is so

funny . . .
Mother, your baby is silly, she is so absurdly

childish !

KATHARINE TYNAN HINKSON

CCLXXXV

THE MEETING

As I went up and he came down, my little six-
year boy,

Upon the stairs we met and kissed, I and my
tender Joy.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 277

Oh ! fond and true, as lovers do, we kissed and

clasped and parted ;
And I went up and he went down, refreshed and

happy-hearted.

What need was there for any words, his face

against my face ?
And in the silence heart to heart spoke for a

little space
Of tender things, and thoughts on wings, and

secrets none discovers ;
And I went up and he went down, a pair of

happy lovers.

His clinging arms about my neck, what need was

there for words ?
Oh, little heart that beat so fast like any fluttering

bird's !
' I love,' his silence said ; ' I love,' my silence

answered duly ;
And I went up and he went down comforted

wonderfully.



CCLXXXVI
THE MOTHER

Great passions I awake that must
Bow any woman to the dust
With fear lest she should fail to rise
As high as those enamoured eyes.

Now, for these flying days and sweet,
I sit in Beauty's Mercy-Seat.
My smiles, my favours I award,
Since I am beautiful, adored.

They praise my cheeks, my lips, my eyes,
With Love's most exquisite flatteries,
Covet my hands that they may kiss
And to their ardent bosoms press.



278 ENGLISH VERSE

My foot upon the nursery stair
Makes them a music rich and rare ;
My skirt that rustles as I come
For very rapture strikes them dumb.

What jealousies of word and glance !
The light of my poor countenance
Lights up their world that else were drear.
' But you are lovely, mother dear ! '

I go not to my grave but I

Know Beauty's full supremacy :

Like Cleopatra's self, I prove

The very heights and depths of Love.

So to be loved, so to be wooed,

Oh, more than mortal woman should !

What if she fail or fall behind !

Lord, make me worthy, kesp them blind !



SIR OWEN SEAMAN

CCLXXXVII

IN ME MORI AM 'LEWIS CARROLL'

Lover of children ! Fellow heir with those
Of whom the imperishable kingdom is !

No longer dreaming, now your spirit knows
The unimagined mysteries.

Darkly as in a glass our faces look

To read ourselves, if so we may, aright ;

You, like the maiden in your faerie book,
You step beyond and see the light !

The heart you wore beneath your pedant's
cloak

Only to children's hearts you gave away ;
Yet unaware in half the world you woke

The slumbering charm of childhood's day.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 279

We older children, too, our loss lament,

We of the ' Table Round ' remembering well

How he, our comrade, with his pencil lent
Your fancy's speech a firmer spell.

Master of rare woodcraft, by sympathy's

Sure touch he caught your visionary gleams

And made your fame, the dreamer's, one with

his,
The wise interpreter of dreams.

Farewell, but near our hearts we have you yet,
Holding our heritage with loving hand,

Who may not follow where your feet are set
Upon the ways of Wonderland.



ALICE MEYNELL

CCLXXXVIII

THE SHEPHERDESS

She walks the lady of my delight

A shepherdess of sheep.
Her flocks are thoughts. She keeps them white

She guards them from the steep ;
She feeds them on the fragrant height,

And folds them in for sleep.

She roams maternal hills and bright,

Dark valleys safe and deep.
Into that tender breast at night

The chastest stars may peep.
She walks the lady of my delight

A shepherdess of sheep.

She holds her little thoughts in sight,

Though gay they run and leap.
She is so circumspect and right ;

She has her soul to keep.
She walks the lady of my delight

A shepherdess of sheep.



280 ENGLISH VERSE

CCLXXXIX

YOUR OWN FAIR YOUTH

Your own fair youth, you care so little for it,
Smiling towards Heaven, you would not stay

the advances

Of time and change upon your happiest fancies.
I keep your golden hour and will restore it.
If ever, in time to come, you would explore it
Your old self, whose thoughts went like last

year's pansies,

Look unto" me : no mirror keeps its glances ;
In my unfailing praises now I store it.
To guard all joys of yours from Time's estranging,
I shall be then a treasury where your gay,

Happy, and pensive past unaltered is.
I shall be then a garden charmed from changing,
In which your June has never passed away.
Walk there awhile among my memories.

ccxc
THE MODERN MOTHER

Oh, what a kiss
With filial passion overcharged is this !

To this misgiving breast

This child runs, as a child ne'er ran to rest
Upon the light heart and the unoppressed.

Unhoped, unsought !
A little tenderness, this mother thought

The utmost of her meed.
She looked for gratitude ; content indeed
With thus much that her nine years' love had
bought.

Nay, even with less.
This mother, giver of life, death, peace, distress,

Desired ah ! not so much

Thanks as forgiveness ; and the passing touch
Expected, and the slight, the brief caress.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 281

O filial light

Strong in these childish eyes, these new, these
bright

Intelligible stars ! their rays
Are near the constant earth, guides in the maze,
Natural, true, keen in this dusk of days.



ccxci

TO SYLVIA
(Two years old)

Long life to thee, long virtue, long delight,

A flowering early and late !
Long beauty, grave to thought and gay to sight,

A distant date !

Yet, as so many poets love to sing

(When young the child will die),
' No autumn will destroy this lovely spring,'

So, Sylvia, I.

I'll write thee dapper verse and touching rhyme ;

' Our eyes shall not behold
The commonplace shall serve for thee this time :

' Never grow old.'

For there's another way to stop thy clock

Within my cherishing heart,
To carry thee unalterable, and lock

Thy youth apart :

Thy flower, for me, shall evermore be hid

In this close bud of thine,
Not, Sylvia, by thy death O God forbid !

Merely by mine.



282 ENGLISH VERSE

SIR HENRY NEWBOLT

CCXCII

IMOGEN

(A lady of tender age)
Ladies, where were your bright eyes glancing,

Where were they glancing yesternight ?
Saw ye Imogen dancing, dancing,

Imogen dancing all in white ?

Laughed she not with a pure delight,

Laughed she not with a joy serene,
Stepped she not with a grace entrancing,

Slenderly girt in silken sheen ?

All through the night from dusk to daytime

Under her feet the hours were swift,
Under her feet the hours of playtime

Rose and fell with a rhythmic lift :

Music set her adrift, adrift,

Music eddying towards the day
Swept her along as brooks in Maytime

Carry the freshly falling May.

Ladies, life is a changing measure,

Youth is a lilt that endeth soon ;
Pltfck ye never so fast at pleasure,

Twilight follows the longest noon.

Nay, but here is a lasting boon,

Life for hearts that are old and chill,
Youth undying for hearts that treasure

Imogen dancing, dancing still.

ROSAMUND MARRIOTT WATSON

CCXCIII

A CHILD'S GARDEN

The garden wastes : the little child is grown ;
Rank with high weeds and blossoms overblown,
His tiny territory boasts no more
The dainty many-coloured mien it wore



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 283

In the old time,

When the stout toiler of the 'summer's prime

Wrought in his glory, sun-flushed and bemired,

With spade and water-can, nor ever tired,

Yet found the bed ward stair so steep to climb.

Pink and forget-me-not and mignonette,

Red double daisies accurately set,

We had them all by heart and more beside,

Purple and yellow pansies, solemn-eyed

As little owlets in their tufted bowers . . .

The weeds have come and driven forth the

flowers.

Summer with all her roses onward hastes.
The garden wastes

This poor small garden, sweet in summers known.
The garden wastes : the little child is grown.

How good those summers, gay and golden-lit,
When down the walks the white-frocked form

would flit,

Laden and all-triumphant with its load ;
That narrow pleasaunce, and the spoils of it !
The various spoils of it so proudly shown,
So royally bestowed . . .
Green wrinkled cress and rosy radish node,
The unsunned strawberry's dimly coral cone,
There be none such treasures now : the child

is grown.

The fish-tailed merchild carved in crumbling stone

Wreathed with loose straggling roses, reigns alone,

Th'abandoned idol still smiles gravely on.

The other child is gone.

New play, new paths, the old sweet hours disown ;

Poor graven image on your rain-worn throne

Smiling the foolish smile,

Rose petals fall around you yet awhile,

Nor may I mourn this little plot defaced,

The bare nest whence the fledging bird has flown

His garden waste :

The little child is grown.



284 ENGLISH VERSE

RUDYARD KIPLING

CCXCIV

THE SERVING-MEN
I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew) ;
Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,

I send them east and west ;
But after they have worked for me,

/ give them all a rest.

/ let them rest from nine till five,

For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch and tea,

For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views ;

I know a person small
She keeps ten million serving-men,

Who get no rest at all !
She sends 'em abroad on her own affairs,

From the second she opens her eyes
One million Hows, two million Wheres,

And seven million Whys !

GEORGE WILLIAM RUSSELL (' A. E.')

ccxcv

RECONCILIA TION
By the hand of a child I am led to the throne

of the King

For a touch that now fevers me not is for-
gotten and far,
And His infinite sceptred hands that sway us

can bring
Me in dreams from the laugh of a child to the

song of a star.

On the laugh of a child I am borne to the joy
of the King.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 285
LAURENCE BINYON

CCXCVI

LITTLE HANDS

Soft little hands that stray and clutch,

Like fern-fronds curl and uncurl bold,

While baby faces lie in such

Close sleep as flowers at night that fold,

What is it you would clasp and hold,

Wandering outstretched with wilful touch ?

O fingers small of shell-tipped rose,

How should you know you hold so much ?

Two full hearts beating you enclose

Hopes, fears, prayers, longings, joys and woes

All yours to hold, O little hands !

More, more than wisdom understands

And love, love only, knows.



THE LITTLE DANCERS : A LONDON
VISION

Lonely, save for a few faint stars, the sky
Dreams ; and lonely, below, the little street
Into its gloom retires, secluded and shy.
Scarcely the dumb roar enters this soft retreat ;
And all is dark, save where come flooding rays
From a tavern window : there, to the brisk

measure
Of an organ that down in an alley merrily

plays.

Two children, all alone and no one by,
Holding their tatter'd frocks, through an airy

maze

Of motion, lightly threaded with nimble feet,
Dance sedately : face to face they gaze,
Their eyes shining, grave with a perfect pleasure.



286 ENGLISH VERSE

HILAIRE BELLOC



DEDICATION ON THE GIFT OF A
BOOK TO A CHILD

Child ! do not throw this book about !

Refrain from the unholy pleasure
Of cutting all the pictures out !

Preserve it as your chief est treasure.

Child, have you never heard it said
That you are heir to all the ages ?.

Why, then, your hands were never made
To tear these beautiful thick pages !

Your little hands were made to take

The better things and leave the worse ones

They also may be used to shake

The Massive Paws of Elder Persons.

And when your prayers complete the day,

Darling, your little tiny hands
Were also made, I think, to pray

For men that lose their fairylands.



FORD MADOX HUEFFER

CCXCIX

TO CHRISTINA AT NIGHTFALL

Little thing, ah, little mouse,

Creeping through the twilit house,

To watch within the shadow of my chair

With large blue eyes ; the firelight on your hair

Doth glimmer gold and faint,

And on your woollen gown

That folds adown
From steadfast little face to square-set feet.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 287

Ah, sweet ! ah, little one ! so like a carven saint,

With your unflinching eyes, unflinching face,

Like a small angel, carved in a high place,

Watching unmoved across a gabled town ;

When I am weak and old,

And lose my grip, and crave my small reward

Of tolerance and tenderness and ruth,

The children of your dawning day shall hold

The reins we drop and wield the judge's sword,

And your swift feet shall tread upon my heels,

And I be Ancient Error, you New Truth,

And I be crushed by your advancing wheels . . .

Good-night ! The fire is burning low,

Put out the lamp ;
Lay down the weary little head

Upon the small white bed.
Up from the sea the night winds blow
Across the hill across the marsh ;
Chill and harsh, harsh and damp,
The night winds blow.

But, while the slow hours go,
I, who must fall before you, late shall wait and keep

Watch and ward,

Vigil and guard,

Where you sleep.
Ah, sweet ! do you the like where I lie dead.

WALTER DE LA MARE

ccc

THE FUNERAL
They dressed us up in black,
Susan and Tom and me ;
And, walking through the fields
All beautiful to see,
With branches high in the air
And daisy and buttercup,
We heard the lark in the clouds,
In black dressed up.



288 ENGLISH VERSE

They took us to the graves,

Susan and Tom and me,

Where the long grasses grow

And the funeral tree :

We stood and watched ; and the wind

Came softly out of the sky

And blew in Susan's hair,

As I stood close by.

Back through the fields we came,

Tom and Susan and me,

And we sat in the nursery together,

And had our tea.

And, looking out of the window,

I heard the thrushes sing ;

But Tom fell asleep in his chair.

He was so tired, poor thing.



ccci
ENVOY

Child, do you love the flower
Ashine with colour and dew
Lighting its transient hour ?
So I love you.

The lambs in the mead are at play,
'Neath a hurdle the shepherd's asleep,
From height to height of the day
The sunbeams sweep.

Evening will come. And alone
The dreamer the dark will beguile ;
All the world will be gone
For a dream's brief while.

Then I shall be old ; and away :
And you, with sad joy in your eyes,
Will brood over children at play
With as loveful surmise.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 289
GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON

CCCII

THE SONG OF THE CHILDREN

The World is ours till sunset,

Holly and fire and snow ;
And the name of our dead brother

Who loved us "long ago.

The grown folk mighty and cunning,

They write his name in gold ;
But we can tell a little

Of the million tales he told.

He taught them laws and watchwords,
To preach and struggle and pray ;

But he taught us deep in the hayfield
The games that the angels play.

Had he stayed here for ever,

Their world would be wise as ours

And the king be cutting capers,
And the priest be picking flowers.

But the dark day came : they gathered :

On their faces we could see
They had taken and slain our brother

And hanged him on a tree.

LADY GLENCONNER

CCCIII

THE MOTHER

The budding branches spread their leaves
To catch the gently breathing air,
The Mother's heart recounts her sheaves,
Her harvest-sheaves of love and care,
Her nine months' joy of happy life,
Of quiet dreams and blessed days,
Of peace that even calmed the Strife,
And steeped her in a golden haze,



ago ENGLISH VERSE

A nimbus of out-shed delight
Whose source so deeply in her lies,
As to give stature to her height,
And visions that outshine her eyes.

O heart, that desolation knows,
O couch, where hooded sorrows sit,

O Mother's milk, that idly flows,
And no soft lips to gather it.

She rises with the rising Sun,

Her bare feet brush the glittering dew,

She hears the crystal waters run,

The throstle with his note so true ;

She sees the gentle listening hare,

Come limping through the tangled grass,

The kine, too indolent to stare,

Or lift their heads to see her pass ;

She sees the sunlight on the Ridge, ,

She hears the swerving plover's cry,

The water weeds above the bridge,

The soft clouds sailing in the sky

Are each and all within her sight,

A joy too poignant to be borne,

She lifts both hands towards the light,

That floods the fields of springing corn.

Her thoughts rise with the mist's pale wreath,

She watches sedge and osier grow,

And murmurs, with exalted breath,

' All this all this my Babe shall know.'

' Hush,' the wind to the flowers is singing,
' Hush,' it sings to the clovers deep,

' Hush, hush,' to the tall grass swinging,
' Fall asleep.'

The days sweep by on burnished wing,

The thrushes herald in the morn,

The Mother's heart awakes to sing,

' Soon soon my Baby will be born.'

Her joys of hope are manifold,

No pen may write, no tongue may speak



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 291

' O patient love, soon soon I'll hold
The little hand against my cheek. . . .'
What are the winds in the Ilex crying ?
' Fruitless labour and garnered dearth. . . .
Why should the little form be lying
Under the earth ? '

' Hush hush ' the scythes are saying,
' Hush and heed not, all things pass.'

' Hush hush ' the scythes are swaying
Over the grass.



SAROJINI NAIDU

CCCIV

THE QUEEN'S RIVAL

i

Queen Gulnaar sat on her ivory bed,
Around her countless treasures were spread ;

Her chamber walls were richly inlaid
With agate, porphyry, onyx and jade ;

The tissues that veiled her delicate breast
Glowed with the hues of a lapwing's crest ;

But still she gazed in her mirror and sighed :
' O King, my heart is unsatisfied.'

King Feroz befot from his ebony seat :
' Is thy least desire unfulfilled, O Sweet ?

' Let thy mouth speak and my life be spent
To clear the sky of thy discontent.'

' I tire of my beauty, I tire of this
Empty splendour and shadowless bliss ;

' With none to envy and none gainsay,
No savour or salt hath my dream or day.'

Queen Gulnaar sighed like a murmuring rose :
' Give me a rival, O King Feroz.'



292 ENGLISH VERSE



King Feroz spoke to his Chief Vizier :
' Lo ! ere to-morrow's dawn be here,

' Send forth my messengers over the sea,
To seek seven beautiful brides for me ;

' Radiant of feature and regal of mien,
Seven handmaids meet for the Persian Queen.

Seven new moon tides at the Vesper call,
King Feroz led to Queen Gulnaar's hall

A young queen eyed like the morning star :
' I bring thee a rival, O Queen Gulnaar.'

But still she gazed in her mirror and sighed :
' O King, my heart is unsatisfied.'

Seven queens shone round her ivory bed,
Like seven soft gems on a silken thread,

Like seven fair lamps in a royal tower,
Like seven bright petals of Beauty's flower.

Queen Gulnaar sighed like a murmuring rose :
' Where is my rival, O King Feroz ? '



When spring winds wakened the mountain floods,
And kindled the flame of the tulip buds,

When bees grew loud and the days grew long,
And the peach groves thrilled to the oriole's song,

Queen Gulnaar sat on her ivory bed,
Decking with jewels her exquisite head ;

And still she gazed in her mirror and sighed :
' O King, my heart is unsatisfied.'

Queen Gulnaar's daughter two springtimes old,
In blue robes bordered with tassels of gold,

Ran to her knee like a wildwood fay,

And plucked from her hand the mirror away.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 293

Quickly she set on her own light curls
Her mother's fillet with fringes of pearls ;

Quickly she turned with a child's caprice
And pressed on the mirror a swift, glad kiss.

Queen Gulnaar laughed like a tremulous rose :
' Here is my rival, O King Feroz.'



GEOFFREY WINTHROP YOUNG



JENNY

There are some children in the field at play,
Laughing delightfully ;
I cannot hear a word of what they say :
Just a clean noise of youth, filling the ear
And brimming over on the heart, wind-clear.

The hedge is launching buds of April green

On a blue river of sky,

Nothing to all the wonders we have seen

That held the glance and thought ; but this

leaps through
Straight from the eye to the heart, with a cry

' I am true.'

That chaffinch singing on a restless tree

Somewhere behind the thorn,

Is far more real to me

Than all the world's old wisdom I have read

And all the wise things wiser folk have said. . .

The children have stopped playing : three or four

Are scampering home this way

Behind -the hedge. Just what they seem, no

more ;

Flicker of brown feet, to the finch's song,
In the green May-light when the days grow long.



294 ENGLISH VERSE

Yet how much more they mean than what they

are !

Childhood, and song, and spring,
Innocent messengers, they bring from far
Feelings more real than nature's counterpart,
Childhood, and song, and springtide to the heart.

Suppose I were to call to that wee mite,
Whose hat like a stray wing
Streams from one cherub shoulder in her flight
Along the ditch ' Heart, what do they call

you ? '
Perhaps she'd answer ' Jenny,' and smile too.

But the brown lifted lashes would disclose
Worlds of another name,

The truth, that makes the beauty of the rose,
Trust, that accepts known and unknown as

friend,
Light, that immortal love alone could lend. . . .

Jenny will grow up complex ; be called Jane :
Truth must find other ways.
Ah well ! the finch will surely sing again :
Who knows ? perhaps, out of her little meinie
To some one Jenny may be always ' Jenny.'

WILFRID WILSON GIBSON

CCCVI

THE SHOP

Tin-tinkle-tinkle-tinkle, went the bell,

As I pushed in ; and, once again, the smell

Of groceries, and news-sheets freshly-printed,

That always greeted me when I looked in

To buy my evening paper : but, to-night,

I wondered not to see the well-known face,

With kind, brown eyes, and ever-friendly smile

Behind the counter ; and to find the place

Deserted at this hour, and not a light

In either window. Waiting there a while,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 295

Though wondering at what change these changes

hinted,

I yet was grateful for the quiet gloom
Lit only by a gleam from the back-room,
And, here and there, a glint of glass and tin
So pleasant, after all the flare and din
And hubbub of the foundry : and my eyes,
Still tingling from the smoke, were glad to rest
Upon the ordered shelves, so neatly dressed
That, even in the dusk, they seemed to tell
No little of the hand that kept them clean,
And of the head that sorted things so well
That naught of waste or worry could be seen,
And kept all sweet with ever-fresh supplies.
And as I thought upon her quiet way,
Wondering what could have got her, that she'd

left

The shop, unlit, untended, and bereft
Of her kind presence, overhead I heard
A tiptoe creak, as though somebody stirred,
With careful step, across the upper floor :
Then all was silent, till the back-room door
Swung open ; and her husband hurried in.
He feared he'd kept me, waiting in the dark ;
And he was sorry : but his wife who served


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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 15 of 20)