L. S. (Leonard Southerden) Wood.

A book of English verse on infancy and childhood online

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A whisper and then a silence ;

Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together

To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall !

By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall !


They climb up into my turret

O'er the arms and back of my chair

If I try to escape they surround me ;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,

Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse Tower on the Rhine !

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,

Such an old moustache as I am
Is not a match for you all ?

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,

But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you for ever,

Yes, for ever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,

And moulder in dust away !


It was the schooner Hesperus,

That sailed the wintry sea ;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter

To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,

Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,

That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,

His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow

The smoke now West, now South.


Then up and spake an old Sailor,

Had sailed the Spanish main,
' I pray thee, put into yonder port,

For I fear a hurricane.

' Last night the moon had a golden ring,

And to-night no moon we see ! '
The skipper he blew a whiff from his pipe,

And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,

A gale from the North-east ;
The snow fell hissing in the brine.

And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain

The vessel in its strength ;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,

Then leaped her cable's length.

' Come hither ! come hither ! my little daughter,

And do not tremble so ;
For I can weather the roughest gale.

That ever wind did blow.'

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat,

Against the stinging blast ;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,

And bound her to the mast.

' O father ! I hear the church-bells ring,

Oh, say, what may it be ? '
' 'Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast ! '

And he steered for the open sea.

' O father ! I hear the sound of guns,

Oh, say, what may it be ? '
' Some ship in distress that cannot live

In such an angry sea ! '

' O father ! I see a gleaming light,

Oh, say, what may it be ? '
But the father answered never a word,

A frozen corpse was he.


Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,

With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow

On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed

That saved she might be ;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,

On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,

Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe. . . .

At daybreak, on the black sea-beach,

A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,

Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,

The salt tears in her eyes ;
And he saw her hair, like brown sea-weed..

On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,

In the midnight and the snow ;
Christ save us all from a death like this,

On the reef of Norman's Woe !




Something divine about an Infant seems

To them, who watch it in that holy light

Of meaning, caught from these celestial words

Of Christ ' Forbid them not, but let them come.

Fresh buds of being ! beautiful as frail.

Types of that kingdom which our souls profess


To enter ! Symbols of that docile love
And meek compliancy of creed and mind,
Which Heaven hath canonized, and for its own
Acknowledged, well may thoughtful hearts per-

A mystery, beyond mere nature's law,
Around them girdled like a moral zone.




A dreary place would this earth be
Were there no little people in it ;

The song of life would lose its mirth,
Were there no children to begin it.

No little forms, like buds, to grow,

And make the admiring heart surrender

No little hands on breast and brow,

To keep the thrilling love-chords tender.

The sterner souls would grow more stern,
Unfeeling nature more inhuman,

And man to stoic coldness turn,

And woman would be less than woman.

Life's song, indeed, would lose its charm
Were there no babies to begin it ;

A doleful place this world would be,
Were there no little people in it.


Still linger in our noon of time

And on our Saxon tongue
The echoes of the home-born hymns

The Aryan mothers sung.


And childhood had its litanies

In every age and clime ;
The earliest cradles of the race

Were rocked to poet's rhyme.

Nor sky, nor wave, nor tree, nor flower,
Nor green earth's virgin sod,

So moved the singer's heart of old
As these small ones of God.

The mystery of unfolding life
Was more than dawning morn,

Than opening flower or crescent moon
The human soul new-born !

And still to childhood's sweet appeal

The heart of genius turns,
And more than all the sages teach

From lisping voices learns,

The voices loved of him who sang,
Where Tweed and Teviot glide,

That sound to-day on all the winds
That blow from Rydal-side,

Heard in the Teuton's household songs,

And folk-lore of the Finn,
Where'er to holy Christmas hearths

The Christ-child enters in ! .


On the wide lawn the snow lay deep
Ridged o'er with many a drifted heap ;
The wind that through the pine-trees sung,
The naked elm-boughs tossed and swung ;
While, through the window, frosty-starred
Against the sunset-purple barred,
We saw the sombre crow flap by,
The hawk's grey fleck along the sky,


The crested blue-jay flitting swift,
The squirrel poising on the drift,
Erect, alert, his broad grey tail
Set to the north wind like a sail.

It came to pass, one little lass,
With flattened face against the glass,
And eyes in which the tender dew
Of pity shone, stood gazing through
The narrow space her rosy lips
Had melted from the frost's eclipse ;
' O, see,' she cried, ' the poor blue-jays !
What is it that the black crow says ?
The squirrel lifts his little legs
Because he has no hands, and begs ;
He's asking for my nuts, I know :
May I not feed them on the snow ? '

Half lost within her boots, her head
Warm-sheltered in her hood of red,
Her plaid skirt close about her drawn,
She floundered down the wintry lawn ;
Now struggling through the misty veil
Blown round her by the shrieking gale ;
Now sinking in a drift so low,
Her scarlet hood could scarcely show
Its dash of colour on the snow.

She dropped for bird and beast forlorn
Her little store of nuts and corn,
And thus her timid guests bespoke :
' Come, squirrel, from your hollow oak
Come, black old crow come, poor blue-jay,
Before your supper's blown away !
Don't be afraid, we all are good ;
And I'm mamma's Red Riding-Hood ! '

O Thou, whose care is over all,
Who heedest e'en the sparrow's fall,
Keep in the little maiden's breast
The pity which is now its guest !
Let not her cultured years make less
The childhood charm of tenderness,


But let her feel as well as know,
Nor harder with her polish grow !
Unmoved by sentimental grief
That wails along some printed leaf,
But prompt with kindly word and deed
To own the claims of all who need ;
Let the grown woman's self make good
The promise of Red Riding-Hood !


O Christ of God ! whose life and death

Our own have reconciled,
Most quietly, most tenderly

Take home thy star-named child !

Thy grace is in her patient eyes.
Thy words are on her tongue ;

The very silence round her seems
As if the angels sung.

Her smile is as a listening child's
Who hears its mother call ;

The lilies of Thy perfect peace
About her pillow fall.

She leans from out our clinging arms

To rest herself in Thine ;
Alone to Thee, dear Lord, can we

Our well-beloved resign !

O, less for her than for ourselves
We bow our heads and pray ;

Her setting star, like Bethlehem's
To Thee shall point the way !




When Letty had scarce passed her third glad


And her young, artless words began to flow.
One day we gave the child a coloured sphere
Of the wide earth, that she might mark and


By tint and outline, all its sea and land.
She patted all the world ; old empires peeped
Between her baby fingers ; her soft hand
Was welcome at all frontiers. How she leaped,
And laughed, and prattled in her world-wide

bliss ;

But when we turned her sweet unlearned eye
On our own isle, she raised a joyous cry,
' Oh ! yes, I see it, Letty's home is there ! '
And, while she hid all England with a kiss,
Bright over Europe fell her golden hair.


Young Sophy leads a life without alloy
Of pain ; she dances in the stormy air ;
While her pink sash and length of golden hair
With answering motion time her step of joy !

Now turns she through that seaward gate of


That opens on the sward above the cliff,
Glancing a moment at each barque and skiff,
Along the roughening waters homeward driven ;

Shoreward she hies, her wooden spade in hand,
Straight down to childhood's ancient field of play,


To claim her right of common in the land
Where little edgeless tools make easy way
A right no cruel Act shall e'er gainsay,
No greed dispute the freedom of the sand.


When the four quarters of the world shall rise,
Men, women, children, at the Judgment- time,
Perchance this Memphian girl, dead ere her

Shall drop her mask, and with dark new-born


Salute our English Mary, loved and lost ;
The Father knows her little scroll of prayer.
And life as pure as His Egyptian air ;
For, though she knew not Jesus, nor the cost
At which He won the world, she learn'd to pray ;
And though our own sweet babe on Christ's

good name

Spent her last breath, premonish'd and advised
Of Him, and in His glorious Church baptized,
She will not spurn this old-world child away,
Nor put her poor embalmed heart to shame.


It was her first sweet child, her heart's delight :
And, though we all foresaw his early doom,
We kept the fearful secret out of sight ;
We saw the canker, but she kissed the bloom.

And yet it might not be : we could not brook
To vex her happy heart with vague alarms,
To blanch with fear her fond intrepid look,
Or send a thrill through those encircling arms.

She smiled upon him, waking or at rest :
She could not dream her little child would die :
She toss'd him fondly with an upward eye :
She seem'd as buoyant as a summer spray,
That dances with a blossom on its breast,
Nor knows how soon it will be borne away.




Youth, that pursuest with such eager pace

Thy even way,
Thou pantest on to win a mournful race :

Then stay ! oh, stay !

Pause and luxuriate in thy sunny plain ;

Loiter, enjoy !
Once past, thou never wilt come back again,

A second Boy.

The hills of Manhood wear a noble face,

When seen from far ;

The mist of light from which they take their

Hides what they are.

The dark and weary path those cliffs between

Thou canst not know,
And how it leads to regions never-green,

Dead fields of snow.

Pause, while thou mayst, nor deem that fate thy

Which, all too fast,

Will drive thee forth from this delicious plain,
A Man at last.





The baby new to earth and sky,

What time his tender palm is prest
Against the circle of the breast,

Has never thought that ' this is I ' :

But as he grows he. gathers much,

And learns the use of ' I,' and ' me,'
And finds ' I am not what I see,

And other than the things I touch.'

So rounds he to a separate mind

From whence clear memory may begin,
As thro' the frame that binds him in

His isolation grows defined.

This use may lie in blood and breath,

Which else were fruitless of their due,
Had man to learn himself anew

Beyond the second birth of Death.



To H, T. August ii, 1852


Out of the deep, my child, out of the deep,
Where all that was to be, in all that was,
Whirl'd for a million aeons thro' the vast
Waste dawn of multitudinous-eddying light
Out of the deep, my child, out of the deep,
Thro' all this changing world of changeless law,
And every phase of ever-heightening life,


And nine long months of antenatal gloom,
With this last moon, this crescent her dark orb
Touch'd with earth's light thou comest, darling

boy ;

Our own ; a babe in lineament and limb
Perfect, and prophet of the perfect man ;
Whose face and form are hers and mine in one,
Indissolubly married like our love ;
Live, and be happy in thyself, and serve
This mortal race thy kin so well, that men
May bless thee as we bless thee, O young life
Breaking with laughter from the dark ; and may
The fated channel where thy motion lives
Be prosperously shaped, and sway thy course
Along the years of haste and random youth
Unshatter'd ; then full-current thro' full man :
And last in kindly curves, with gentlest fall,
By quiet fields, a slowly-dying power,
To that last deep where we and thou are still.


Out of the deep, my child, out of the deep,
From that great deep, before our world begins,
Whereon the Spirit of God moves as He will
Out of the deep, my child, out of the deep,
From that true world within the world we see,
Whereof our world is but the bounding shore
Out of the deep, Spirit, out of the deep,
With this ninth moon, that sends the hidden

Down yon dark sea, thou comest, darling boy.


For in the world, which is not ours, They said
' Let us make man ' and that which should be


From that one light no man can look upon,
Drew to this shore lit by the suns and moons


And all the shadows. O dear Spirit half-lost
In thine own shadow and this fleshly sign
That thou art thou who wailest being born
And banish'd into mystery, and the pain
Of this divisible-indivisible world
Among the numerable-innumerable
Sun, sun, and sun, thro' finite-infinite space
In finite-infinite Time our mortal veil
And shatter 'd phantom of that infinite One,
Who made thee unconceivably Thyself
Out of His whole World-self and all in all
Live thou ! and of the grain and husk, the


And ivyberry, choose ; and still depart
From death to death thro* life and life, and


Nearer and ever nearer Him, who wrought
Not Matter, nor the finite-infinite,
But this main-miracle, that thou art thou,
With power on thine own act and on the world.


' Sleep, little birdie, sleep ! will she not sleep
Without her " little birdie " ? well then, sleep,
And I will sing you " birdie." '

Saying this,
The woman half-turn'd round from him she


Left him one hand, and reaching thro" the night
Her other, found (for it was close beside)
And half-embraced the basket cradle-head
With one soft arm, which, like the pliant bough
That moving moves the nest and nestling,

The cradle, while she sang this baby song.

What does little birdie say
In her nest at peep of day ?


Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away. "
Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till the little wings are stronger.
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.

What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day ?
Baby says, like little birdie,
Let me rise and fly away.
Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till the little limbs are stronger.
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby too shall fly away.


Sweet and low, sweet and low.

Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,

Wind of the western sea !
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,

Blow him again to me ;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,

Father will come to thee soon ;
Rest, rest, on mother's breast,

Father will come to thee soon ;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west

Under the silver moon :
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.




Dainty little maiden, whither would you wander ?

Whither from this pretty home, the home

where mother dwells ?

' Far and far away,' said the dainty little maiden,
' All among the gardens, auriculas, anemones,

Roses and lilies and Canterbury-bells.'

Dainty little maiden, whither would you wander ?
Whither from this pretty house, this city-
house of ours ?

' Far and far away,' said the dainty little maiden,
' All among the meadows, the clover and the

Daisies and kingcups and honeysuckle-flowers.'



Our doctor had call'd in another, I never had

seen him before,
But he sent a chill to my heart when I saw him

come in at the door,
Fresh from the surgery-schools of France and

of other lands

Harsh red hair, big voice, big chest, big merci-
less hands !
Wonderful cures he had done, O yes, but they

said too of him
He was happier using the knife than in trying

to save the limb,
And that I can well believe, for he look'd so

coarse and so red,
I could think he was one of those who would

break their jests on the dead,

i6 7

And mangle the living dog that had loved him

and fawn'd at his knee
Drench'd with the hellish oorali that ever such

things should be !

Here was a boy I am sure that some of out

children would die
But for the voice of Love, and the smile, and

the comforting eye -
Here was a boy in the ward, every bone seem'd

out of its place
Caught in a mill and crush' d it was all but a

hopeless case :
And he handled him gently enough ; but his

voice and his face were not kind,
And it was but a hopeless case, he had seen it

and made up his mind,
And he said to me roughly ' The lad will need

little more of your care.'
' All the more need,' I told him, ' to seek the

Lord Jesus in prayer ;
They are all His children here, and I pray for

them all as my own ' :
But he turn'd to me, ' Ay, good woman, can

prayer set a broken bone ? '
Then he mutter'd half to himself, but I know

that I heard him say
' All very well but the good Lord Jesus has

had His day.'

' in

Had ? has it come ? It has only dawn'd. It
will come by and by.

O how could I serve in the wards if the hope of
the world were a lie ?

How could I bear with the sights and the loath-
some smells of disease

But that He said ' Ye do it to Me, when ye do
it to these ' ?


So he went. And we past to this ward where

the younger 1 children are laid :
Here is the cot of our orphan, our darling, our

meek little maid ;
Empty you see just now ! We have lost her

who loved her so much
Patient of pain tho' as quick as a sensitive plant

to the touch ;
Hers was the prettiest prattle, it often moved

me to tears,
Hers was the gratefullest heart I have found

in a child of her years
Nay you remember our Emmie ; you used to

send her the flowers ;
How she would smile at 'em, play with 'em,

talk to 'em hours after hours !
They that can wander at will where the works

of the Lord are reveal'd
Little guess what joy can be got from a cowslip

out of the field ;
Flowers to these ' spirits in prison ' are all they

can know of the spring,
They freshen and sweeten the wards like the

waft of an Angel's wing ;
And she lay with a flower in one hand and her

thin hands crost on her breast
Wan, but as pretty as heart can desire, and we

thought her at rest,
Quietly sleeping so quiet, our doctor said ' Poor

little dear,
Nurse, I must do it to-morrow ; she'll never

live thro' it, I fear.'

I walk'd with our kindly old doctor as far as

the head of the stair,
Then I return'd to the ward ; the child didn't

see I was there.


Never since I was nurse, had I been so grieved

and so vext !
Emmie had heard him. Softly she call'd from

her cot to the next,
' He says I shall never live thro' it, O Annie,

what shall I do ? '
Annie consider'd. 'If I,' said the wise little

Annie, ' was you,
I should cry to the dear Lord Jesus to help me,

for, Emmie, you see,
It's all in the picture there : " Little children

should come to Me." '
(Meaning the print that you gave us, I find

that it always can please
Our children, the dear Lord Jesus with children

about His knees.)
' Yes, and I will,' said Emmie, ' but then if I

call to the Lord,
How should He know that it's me ? such a lot

of beds in the ward ! '

That was a puzzle for Annie. Again she con-
sider'd and said :
' Emmie, you put out your arms, and you leave

'em outside on the bed
The Lord has so much to see to ! but, Emmie,

you tell it Him plain,
It's the little girl with her arms lying out on the



I had sat three nights by the child I could not

watch her for four
My brain had begun to reel I felt I could do it

no more.
That was my sleeping-night, but I thought that

it never would pass.
There was a thunderclap once, and a clatter of

hail on the glass,
And there was a phantom cry that I heard as

I tost about,


The motherless bleat of a lamb in the storm

and the darkness without ;
My sleep was broken besides with dreams of

the dreadful knife
And fears for our delicate Emmie who scarce

would escape with her life ;
Then in the gray of the morning it seem'd she

stood by me and smiled,
And the doctor came at his hour, and we went

to see to the child.

He had brought his ghastly tools : we believed

her asleep again
Her dear, long, lean, little arms lying out on the

counterpane ;
Say that His day is done ! Ah why should we

care what they say ?
The Lord of the children had heard her, and

Emmie had past away.


' Ah me, my babe, my blossom, ah, my child,
My one sweet child, whom I shall see no more !
For now will cruel Ida keep her back ;
And either she will die from want of care,
Or sicken with ill-usage, when they say
The child is hers for every little fault,
The child is hers ; and they will beat my girl
Remembering her mother : O my flower !
Or they will take her, they will make her hard,
And she will pass me by in after-life
With some cold reverence worse than were she


Ill mother that I was to leave her there,
To lag behind, scared by the cry they made,
The horror of the shame among them all :


But I will go and sit beside the doors,
And make a wild petition night and day,
Until they hate to hear me like a wind
Wailing for ever, till they open to me,
And lay my little blossom at my feet,
My babe, my sweet Aglai'a, my one child :
And I will take her up and go my way,
And satisfy my soul with kissing her :
Ah ! what might that man not deserve of me
Who gave me back my child ? '


As thro' the land at eve we went,

And pluck'd the ripen'd ears,
We fell out, my wife and I,
O we fell out, I know not why,

And kiss'd again with tears.
And blessings on the falling out

That all the more endears,
When we fall out with those we love

And kiss again with tears !
For when we came where lies the child

We lost in other years,
There above the little grave,
O there above the little grave,

We kiss'd again with tears.




Angels embrace us daily and obey ;

We call them ' children,' and account our own ;
Find they had wings when they have fled away,

And know they were of Heaven when thither





In token that thou shalt not fear

Christ crucified to own,
We print the Cross upon thee here,

And stamp thee His alone.

In token that thou shalt not blush

To glory in His name,

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Online LibraryL. S. (Leonard Southerden) WoodA book of English verse on infancy and childhood → online text (page 9 of 20)