L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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What then can their two colours do

But call our sister back to mind ?
She wore noo black she wore her white ;

She wore noo black she wore her blue
She never murn'd another's flight,

Vor she's avore us all to goo
Vrom where our litty veet did tread
Vrom stwone to stwone the water's bed.



CXLVIII
THE MOTHERLESS CHILD

The zun'd a-zet back t'other night,

But in the zetten pleace
The clouds, a-redden'd by his light,

Still glow'd avore my feace.
An' I've a-lost my Meary's smile,
I thought ; but still I have her chile,
Zoo like her, that my eyes can treace
The mother's in her daughter's feace.

O little feace so near to me,
An' like thy mother's gone ; why need I zay



i 3 2 ENGLISH VERSE

Sweet night cloud, wi' the glow o" my lost

day,
Thy looks be always dear to me ?

The zun'd a-zet another night ;

But, by the moon on high,
He still did zend us back his light

Below a cwolder sky.
My Meary's in a better land
I thought, but still her chile's at hand,
An" in her chile she'll zend me on
Her love, though she herself's a-gone.

O little chile so near to me,
An' like thy mother gone ; why need I zay,
Sweet moon, the messenger vrom my lost day,

Thy looks be always dear to me ?



CXLIX
THE MOTHER'S DREAM

I'd a dream to-night
As I fell asleep,
Oh ! the touching sight
Makes me still to weep :
Of my little lad,
Gone to leave me sad,
Aye, the child I had,
But was not to keep.

As in heaven high,
I my child did seek,
There, in train, came by
Children fair and meek,
Each in lily-white,
With a lamp alight ;
Each was clear to sight,
But they did not speak.

Then, a little sad,
Came my child in turn,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 133

But the lamp he had,
Oh ! it did not burn ;
He, to clear my doubt,
Said, half turn'd about,
' Your tears put it out ;
Mother, never mourn.'



THE SLANTEN LIGHT O' FALL

Ah ! Jeane, my maid, I stood to you,

When you wer christen'd, small an' light,
Wi' tiny earms o* red an' blue,

A-hangen in your robe o' white.
We brought ye to the hallow' d stwone,
Vor Christ to teake ye vor His own,
When harvest work wer all a-done,
An' time brought round October zun
The slanten light o' Fall.

An' I can mind the wind wer rough,

An' gather'd clouds, but brought noo storms,

An' you did nessle warm enough,
'Ithin your smilen mother's earms.

The whindlen grass did quiver light,

Among the stubble, feaded white,

An' if at times the zunlight broke

Upon the ground, or on the vo'k,
'Twer slanten light o' Fall.

An' when we brought ye drough the door
O' Knapton Church, a child o' greace,

There cluster'd round a'most a score
O' vo'k to zee your tiny feace.

An' there we all did veel so proud,

To zee an' op'nen in the cloud,

An' then a stream o' light break drough,

A-sheenen brightly down on you
The slanten. light o' Fall.



134 ENGLISH VERSE

But now your time's a-come to stand

In church, a blushen at my zide,
The while a bridegroom vrom my hand

Ha' took ye vor his faithvul bride.
Your christen neame we gi'd ye here,
When Fall did cool the weasten year ;
An' now, agean, we brought ye drough
The doorway, wi' your surneame new,
In slanten light o' Fall.

An' zoo vur, Jeane, your life is feair,

An' God ha' been your steadvast friend,
An' mid ye have mwore jay than ceare,

Vor ever, till your journey's end.
An' I've a watch'd ye on wi' pride,
But now I soon mus' leave your zide,
Vor you ha' still life's spring-tide zun,
But my life, Jeane, is now a-run
To slanten light o' Fall.



SARA COLERIDGE

CLI
O SLEEP, MY BABE

O sleep, my babe, hear not the rippling wave,
Nor feel the breeze that round thee ling'ring
strays

To drink thy balmy breath,

And sigh one long farewell.

Soon shall it mourn above thy wat'ry bed,
And whisper to me, on the wave-beat shore,

Deep murm'ring in reproach,

Thy sad untimely fate.

Ere those dear eyes had open'd on the light,
In vain to plead, thy coming life was sold,

O waken'd but to sleep,

Whence it can wake no more !



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 135

A thousand and a thousand silken leaves
The tufted beech unfolds in early spring,

All clad in tenderest green,

All of the self-same shape :

A thousand infant faces, soft and sweet,
Each year sends forth, yet every mother views

Her last not least beloved

Like its dear self alone.

No musing mind hath ever yet foreshaped
The face to-morrow's sun shall first reveal,

No heart hath e'er conceived

What love that face" will bring.

O sleep, my babe, nor heed how mourns the gale
To part with thy soft locks and fragrant breath,

As when it deeply sighs

O'er autumn's latest bloom.



WINTHROP MACKWORTH PRAED



SKETCH OF A YOUNG LADY FIVE
MONTHS OLD

My pretty, budding, breathing flower,

Methinks, if I to-morrow
Could manage, just for half-an-hour,

Sir Joshua's brush to borrow,
I might immortalise a few

Of all the myriad graces
Which Time, while yet they all are new,

With newer still replaces.

I'd paint, my child, your deep blue eyes,
Their quick and earnest flashes ;

I'd paint the fringe that round them lies,
The fringe of long dark lashes ;

I'd draw with most fastidious care
One eyebrow, then the other,



136 ENGLISH VERSE

And that fair forehead, broad and fair,
The forehead of your mother. . . .

Nor less on those twin rounded arms

My new-found skill would linger,
Nor less upon the rosy charms

Of every tiny finger,
Nor slight the small feet, little one,

So prematurely clever
That, though they neither walk nor run,

I think they'd jump for ever.

But then your odd .endearing ways

What study e'er could catch them ?
Your aimless gestures, endless plays

What canvas e'er could match them ?
Your lively leap of merriment,

Your murmur of petition.
Your serious silence of content,

Your laugh of recognition.

Here were a puzzling toil, indeed,

For Art's most fine creations !
Grow on, sweet baby : we will need,

To note your transformations,
No picture of your form or face,

Your waking or your sleeping,
But that which Love shall daily trace,

And trust to Memory's keeping.

Hereafter, when revolving years

Have made you tall and twenty,
And brought you blended hopes and fears.

And sighs and slaves in plenty.
May those who watch our little saint

Among her tasks and duties,
Feel all her virtues hard to paint,

As now we deem her beauties.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 137
RALPH WALDO EMERSON

CLIII

From ' THRENODY '

The south-wind brings

Life, sunshine, and desire,

And on every mount and meadow

Breathes aromatic fire ;

But over the dead he has no power,

The lost, the lost, he cannot restore ;

And, looking over the hills, I mourn

The darling who shall not return

I see my empty house,

I see my trees repair their boughs ;

And he, the wondrous child,

Whose silver warble wild

Outvalued every pulsing sound

Within the air's cerulean round

The hyacinthine boy, for whom

Morn well might break and April bloom

The gracious boy, who did adorn

The world whereinto he was born,

And by his countenance repay

The favour of the loving Day

Has disappeared from the Day's eye ;

Far and wide she cannot find him ;

My hopes pursue, they cannot bind him.

Returned this day, the south-wind searches,
And finds young pines and budding birches ;
But finds not the budding man ;
Nature, who lost, cannot remake him ;
Fate let him fall, Fate can't retake him ;
Nature, Fate, men, him seek in vain.

And whither now, my truant wise and sweet,

O, whither tend thy feet ?

I had the right, few days ago,

Thy steps to watch, thy place to know ;



138 ENGLISH VERSE

How have 1 forfeited the right ?

Hast thou forgot me in a new delight ?

I hearken for thy household cheer,

O eloquent child !

Whose voice, an equal messenger,

Conveyed thy meaning mild.

What though the pains and joys

Whereof it spoke were toys

Fitting his age and ken,

Yet fairest dames and bearded men,

Who heard the sweet request,

So gentle, wise, and grave,

Bended with joy to his behest,

And let the world's affairs go by,

A while to share his cordial game,

Or mend his wicker waggon-frame,

Still plotting how their hungry ear

That winsome voice again might hear ;

For his lips could well pronounce

Words that were persuasions.

Gentlest guardians marked serene
His early hope, his liberal mien ;
Took counsel from his guiding eyes
To make this wisdom earthly wise.
Ah, vainly do these eyes recall
The school-march, each day's festival,
When every morn my bosom glowed
To watch the convoy on the road ;
The babe in willow waggon closed,
With rolling eyes and face composed ;
With children forward and behind,
Like Cupids studiously inclined ;
And he the chieftain paced beside,
The centre of the troop allied,
With sunny face of sweet repose,
To guard the babe from fancied foes.
The little captain innocent
Took the eye with him as he went ;
Each village senior paused to scan
And speak the lovely caravan.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 139

From the window I look out
To mark thy beautiful parade,
Stately marching in cap and coat
To some tune by fairies played
A music heard by thee alone
To works as noble led thee on.

Now Love and Pride, alas ! in vain,

Up and down their glances strain.

The painted sled stands where it stood ;

The kennel by the corded wood ;

His gathered sticks to staunch the wall

Of the snow-tower, when snow should fall :

The ominous hole he dug in the sand,

And childhood's castles built or planned ;

His daily haunts I well discern

The poultry-yard, the shed, the barn

And every inch of garden ground

Paced by the blessed feet around,

From the roadside to the brook

Whereinto he loved to look.

Step the meek birds where erst they ranged ;

The wintry garden lies unchanged :

The brook into the stream runs on ;

But the deep-eyed boy is gone. . . .



ROBERT STEPHEN HAWKER

CLIV

THE SONG OF THE SCHOOL :
St. Mark's, Morwenstow

Sing to the Lord the children's hymn,

His gentle love declare,
Who bends amid the Seraphim

To hear the children's prayer.

He at a mother's breast was fed,
Though God's own Son was He ;

He learnt the first small words He said
At a meek mother's knee.



140 ENGLISH VERSE

He held us to His mighty breast,
The children of the earth ;

He lifted up His hands and blessed
The babes of human birth.

So shall He be to us our God,
Our gracious Saviour too ;

The scenes we tread His footsteps trod,
The paths of youth He knew.

Lo ! from the stars His face will turn

On us with glances mild :
The angels of His presence yearn

To bless the little child.

Keep us, O Jesu Lord, for Thee,
That so, by Thy dear grace,

We, children of the font, may see
Our heavenly Father's face.

Sing to the Lord the children's hymn,

His tender love declare,
Who bends amid the Seraphim,

To hear the children's prayer.



THOMAS WADE

CLV

THE RETURN

Smile, Baby ! for thy Mother home is coming,
Again to clasp thee to her yearning heart ;
Both memory and hope her way illuming
To the calm nook wherein thou nestled art.
Thou canst not run to meet her, Baby dear !
Nor hast sweet worded music on thy tongue,
But thou the music of her voice canst hear,
And o'er thee see her tender gazings hung :
And little recollections, fond tho' dim,
Enkindled in thy soul thro' ear and eye,



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 141

Shall lend thee graces of the cherubim
Saluted by the breath of deity :
Stir all thy tiny limbs, and softly trace
Sweet love-assurance on thy pretty face !



ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

CLVI

THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,

Ere the sorrow comes with years ?
They are leaning their young heads against their
mothers,

And that cannot stop the tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows,

The young birds are chirping in the nest,
The young fawns are playing with the shadows,

The young flowers are blowing toward the

west-
But the young, young children, O my brothers,

They are weeping bitterly !
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,

In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,

Why their tears are falling so ?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow

Which is lost in Long Ago. '
The old tree is leafless in the forest,

The old year is ending in the frost,
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest,

The old hope is hardest to be lost :
But the young, young children, O my brothers,

Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,

In our happy Fatherland ?

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their looks are sad to see,



142 ENGLISH VERSE

For the man's hoary anguish draws and presses

Down the cheeks of infancy
' Your old earth,' they say, ' is very dreary ; '

' Our young feet,' they say, ' are very weak !
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary

Our grave-rest is very far to seek.
Ask the aged why they weep, and not the
. children ;

For the outside earth is cold ;
And we young ones stand without, in our
bewildering,

And the graves are for the old.

' True,' say the children, ' it may happen

That we die before our time.
Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen

Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her.

Was no room for any work in the close clay !
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake
her,

Crying, " Get up, little Alice ! it is day."
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,

With your ear down, little Alice never cries.
Could we see her face, be sure we should not
know her.

For the smile has time for growing in her eyes.
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in

The shroud by the kirk-chime !
It is good when it happens/ say the children,

' That we die before our time.' . . .

' For oh/ say the children, ' we are weary,

And we cannot run or leap.
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely

To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping

We fall upon our faces, trying to go ;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,

The reddest flower would look as pale as snow
For, all day, we d r ag our burden tiring

Through the coal-dark, underground ;



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 143

Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
In the factories, round and round.

' For, all day, the wheels are droning, turning,

Their wind comes in our faces,
Till our hearts turn, our heads with pulses
burning,

And the walls turn in their places.
Turns the sky in the high window blank and.
reeling,

Turns the long light that drops adown the wall,
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling,

All are turning, all the day, and we with all.
And all day, the iron wheels are droning ;

And sometimes we could pray,
" O ye wheels " (breaking out in a mad moaning),

" Stop ! be silent for to-day ! "

Ay, be silent ! Let them hear each other

breathing

For a moment, mouth to mouth !
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh

wreathing

Of their tender human youth !
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
Is not all the life God fashions or reveals.
Let them prove their living souls against the

notion

That they live in you, or under you, O wheels !
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,

Grinding life down from its mark ;
And the children's souls, which God is calling

sunward,
Spin on blindly in the dark. . . .

They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,

And their look is dread to see,
For they mind you of their angels in high places,

With eyes turned on Deity !
' How long,' they say, ' how long, O cruel nation,

Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's
heart,



144 ENGLISH VERSE

Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
And tread onward to your throne amid the
mart ?

Our blood splashes upward, O gold-heaper,
And your purple shows your path !

But the child's sob in the silence curses deeper
Than the strong man in his wrath.'



CLVII
THE PET-NAME

I have a name, a little name,

Uncadenced for the ear,
Unhonoured by ancestral claim,
Unsanctified by prayer and psalm

The solemn font anear.

It never did, to pages wove

For gay romance, belong.
It never dedicate did move
As ' Sacharissa,' unto love

' Orinda,' unto song.

Though I write books it will be read

Upon the leaves of none,
And afterward, when I am dead,
Will ne'er be graved for sight or tread

Across my funeral-stone.

This name, whoever chance to call,

Perhaps your smile may win.
Nay, do not smile ! mine eyelids fall
Over mine eyes, and feel withal
The sudden tears within.

Is there a leaf that greenly grows

Where summer meadows bloom,
But gathereth the winter snows,
And changeth to the hue of those
If lasting till they come ?



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 145

Is there a word, or jest, or game,

But time incrusteth round
With sad associate thoughts the same ?
And so to me my very name .

Assumes a mournful sound.

My brother gave that name to me
When we were children twain,

When names acquired baptismally

Were hard to utter, as to see
That life had any pain.

No shade was on us then, save one

Of chestnuts from the hill
And through the word our laugh did run
As part thereof. The mirth being done,

He calls me by it still.

Nay, do not smile ! I hear in it

What none of you can hear,
The talk upon the willow seat,
The bird and wind that did repeat

Around, our human cheer.

I hear the birthday's noisy bliss,

My sisters' woodland glee,
My father's praise, I did not miss,
When stooping down he cared to kiss

The poet at his knee,

And voices, which, to name me, aye
Their tenderest tones were keeping

To some I nevermore can say

An answer, till God wipes away
In heaven these drops of weeping.

My name to me a sadness wears ;

No murmurs cross my mind :
Now God be thanked for these thick tears,
Which show, of those departed years,

Sweet memories left behind !

Now God be thanked for years enwrought
With love which softens yet !



ENGLISH VERSE

Now God be thanked for every thought
Which is so tender, it has caught
Earth's guerdon of regret !

Earth saddens, never shall remove,

Affections purely given ;
And e'en that mortal grief shall prove
The immortality of love,

And heighten it with Heaven.



CLVIII
THE DESERTED GARDEN

I mind me in the days departed,
How often underneath the sun
With childish bounds I used to run
To a garden long deserted.

The beds and walks were vanish'd quite
And whereso'er had struck the spade,
The greenest grasses Nature laid,
To sanctify her right.

I call'd the place my wilderness,
For no one enter'd there but I.
The sheep look'd in, the grass to espy,
And pass'd it ne'ertheless.

The trees were interwoven wild,
And spread their boughs enough about
To keep both sheep and shepherd out,
But not a happy child.

Adventurous joy it was for me !
I crept beneath the boughs, and found
A circle smooth of mossy ground
Beneath a poplar tree.

Old garden rose-trees hedged it in,
Bedropt with roses waxen-white,
Well satisfied with dew and light,
And careless to be seen.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 147

Long years ago, it might befall,
When all the garden flowers were trim,
The grave old gardener prided him
On these the most of all.

Some Lady, stately overmuch.
Here moving with a silken noise,
Has blush'd beside them at the voice
That liken'd her to such.

Or these, to make a diadem,
She often may have pluck' d and twined ;
Half-smiling as it came to mind,
That few would look at them.

O, little thought that Lady proud,

A child would watch her fair white rose,

When buried lay her whiter brows,

And silk was changed for shroud !

Nor thought that gardener (full of scorns
For men unlearn'd and simple phrase)
A child would bring it all its praise,
By creeping through the thorns !

To me upon my low moss seat,
Though never a dream the roses sent
Of science or love's compliment,
I ween they smelt as sweet.

It did not move my grief to see
The trace of human step departed :
Because the garden was deserted.
The blither place for me !

Friends, blame me not ! a narrow ken
Hath childhood 'twixt the sun and sward :
We draw the moral afterward
We feel the gladness then.

And gladdest hours for me did glide
In silence at the rose-tree wall :
A thrush made gladness musical
Upon the other side.



148 ENGLISH VERSE

Nor he nor I did e'er incline
To peck or pluck the blossoms white :
How should I know but that they might
Lead lives as glad as mine ?

To make my hermit-home complete,
I brought clear water from the spring
Praised in its own low murmuring,
And cresses glossy wet.

And so, I thought, my likeness grew
(Without the melancholy tale)
To ' gentle hermit of the dale/
And Angelina too.

For oft I read within my nook
Such minstrel stories ; till the breeze
Made sounds poetic in the trees,
And then I shut the book.

If I shut this wherein I write,
I hear no more the wind athwart
Those trees, nor feel that childish heart
Delighting in delight.

My childhood from my life is parted,
My footsteps from the moss which drew
Its fairy circle round : anew
The garden is deserted.

Another thrush may there rehearse
The madrigals which sweetest are ;
No more for me ! myself afar
Do sing a sadder verse.

Ah me ! ah me ! when erst I lay
In that child's-nest so greenly wrought,
I laugh'd unto myself and thought,
' The time will pass away.'

And still I laugh'd, and did not fear
But that, whene'er was pass'd away
The childish time, some happier play
My womanhood would cheer.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 149

I knew the time would pass away ;
And yet, beside the rose-tree wall,
Dear God, how seldom, if at all,
Did I look up to pray !

The time is past : and now that grows
The cypress high among the trees,
And I behold white sepulchres
As well as the white rose,

When wiser, meeker thoughts are given,
And I have learnt to lift my face,
Reminded how earth's greenest place
The colour draws from heaven,

It something saith for earthly pain,
But more for heavenly promise free,
That I who was, would shrink to be
That happy child again.



HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

CLIX

TO A CHILD

O Child ! O new-born denizen

Of life's great city ! on thy head

The glory of the morn is shed,

Like a celestial benison !

Here at the portal thou dost stand,

And with thy little hand

Thou openest the mysterious gate

Into the future's undiscovered land. . .

By what astrology of fear or hope

Dare I to cast thy horoscope !

Like the new moon thy life appears ;

A little strip of silver light,

And widening outward into night

The shadowy disk of future years ;



150 ENGLISH VERSE

And yet upon its outer rim,

A luminous circle, faint and dim,

And scarcely visible to us here,

Rounds and completes the perfect sphere ;

A prophecy and intimation,

A pale and feeble adumbration,

Of the great world of light, that lies

Behind all human destinies.



CHILDREN

Come to me, O ye children !

For I hear you at your play,
And the questions that perplex'd me

Have vanished quite away.

Ye open the eastern windows,

That look towards the sun,
Where thoughts are singing swallows,

And the brooks of morning run.

In your hearts are the birds and the sunshine,
In your thoughts the brooklet's flow,

But in mine is the wind of Autumn,
And the first fall of the snow.

Ah ! what would the world be to us

If the children were no more ?
We should dread the desert behind us

Worse than the dark before.

What the leaves are to the forest.

With light and air for food,
Ere their sweet and tender juices

Have been hardened into wood,

That to the world are children ;

Through them it feels the glow
Of a brighter and sunnier climate

Than reaches the trunks below.



ON INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD 151

Come to me, O ye children,

And whisper in my ear
What the birds and the winds are singing

In your sunny atmosphere.

For what are all our contrivings,

And the wisdom of our books,
When compared with your caresses,

And the gladness of your looks ?

Ye are better than all the ballads

That ever were sung or said ;
For ye are living poems,

And all the rest are dead.



CLXI
THE CHILDREN'S HOUR

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,

Comes a pause in the day's occupation,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me

The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,

And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,

Grave Alice and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.


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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 8 of 20)