Eric S. (Eric Sutherland) Robertson.

The children of the poets : an anthology from English and American writers of three centuries online

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Cbilbren of the poctQ


English and American Writers of
Three Centuries.

Edited^ with Introduction




Walter Scott, Ik Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row,


1 886.



Earl of Surrey (1515-1547).
The Age of Children Happiest

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586).
Child-Song .

Nicholas Breton (1558-1624)
A Sweet Lullaby


Robert Southwell (1560-1594).
The Burning Babe ,

Robert Greene (1560-1592).
Sephestia's Song to her Child

BEN JONSON (1574-1637).
On my First Daughter
On my First Son .

George Wither (1588-1667).
Sleep, Baby, Sleep I .

Old Ballad (I7th Century).
The Babes in the Wood


Richard Crashaw (1616-1650),

In the Holy Nativity of Our Lord

. 14

John Milton (1608-1674)

Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity

On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough

. IS
. 26

Henry Vaughan (1621-1695).

The Retreat ......

Childhood .....

. 29
. 30

Matthew Prior (1664-1721).

To a Child of Quality, five years old

. 31

Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

A Cradle Song .....

. 32

Sir Charles H. Williams (1709-1759).
A Song upon Miss Harriet Hanbury


William Whitehead (1715-1785).

On the Birthday of a Young Lady, four years old


Nathaniel Cotton (1721-1788).

To a Child of Five Years Old ....


^VILLIAM Cowper (1731-1800).
.,. On Reeeii3t of my Mother's Picture out of Norfolk


William Blake (1757-1828).

Introduction to " Songs of Innocence " .
y The Little Black Boy ....
'^ Holy Thursday .....
.- Infant Sorrow .....

The Land of Dreams ....




Robert Burns (1759-1796).

On the Poet's Daughter ....

. 44

Robert Bloomfield (1766-1823).

The Blind Child

. 45

William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
_^^-Three Years She Grew ....
. - We are Seven .....
"" Lucy Gray ; or, Solitude ....
' Ode

. 46
. 47
. 50
. 53

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).
Lullaby of an Infant Chief

. 59

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834).

Epitaph on an Infant ....
To an Infant .....

. 60
. 60

James Hogg (1772-1835).

The Last Cradle Song ^ . . .

. 61

Robert Southey (1774-1843).
Queen Mary's Christening

. 62

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1861).
Rosina ....
Before a Saint's Picture ....

Different Graces

Children Playing in a Churchyard

There are some Wishes ....

Child of a Day .....

. 68
. 69
. 69
. 69
. 70
. 71

Charles Lamb (1775-1834).

Childhood ......

. 71


Mary Lamb ( — 1847).

Feigned Courage ....
Parental Recollections
The New-born Infant


. 71

. 72
, 73

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859).

To T. L. H

. 74

"Barry Cornwall" (1790-1874).
Golden-Tressed Adelaide .

. 75

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).

To WUliam Shelley . .

. 76

Felicia Hemans (1794-1835).

Casabianca . . , . ,
The Child's Last Sleep

. 78
. 80

Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849).
The Sabbath Day's Child


•' Of such is the Kingdom of God "

. 81
. 83
. 84

Thomas" Hood (1798-1845).
A Parental Ode to my Son
I remember, I remember !

" A Retrospective Review

. 85
. 87
. 88

John Moultrie (1800-1874).

The Three Sons . . . ;

. 91


School and Schoolfellows

Sketch of a Young Lady, five months old

Childhood and his Visitors

. 95
. 98
. 100

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

Threnody .....

. 102


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1884). page

The Reaper and the Flowers .... 110

Children Ill

The Children's Hour . . . . .113

The Wreck of the Hesperus .... 114

John Greenleaf Whittier
The Barefoot Boy

In School-days
Child-songs .
Red Riding-Hood


James Ballantine (1807-1877).

Creep afore ye gang ..... 127

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1809-1861).

My Child 128

The Cry of the Children . . . .129

"^ A Portrait . . ... . . 133

Charles Tennyson-Turner (1808-1879).

Letty's Globe 137

Lord Tennyson

As through the Land ..... 138

Sweet and Low . . , . . .138

In the Children's Hospital . , . .139

William Miller (1810-1872).

Wee Willie Winkle . . . . .144

Spring 145

The Wonderfu' Wean ..... 146

Hairst . . . , . . .147

Robert B. Brough ( — 18C0).

Neighbour Nelly ...... 149


William Barnes

The Mother's Dream ....
The Child Lost

. 151
. 152

Henry Alford (1810-1871).

The Gypsy GM

Epimenides .....

. 153
. 153

Alexander Smart

The Herd Laddie . , . . .
The Truant

. 154
. 154

^VJLLIAM Bell Scott

Of Me

Little Boy

. 155

. 156

Robert Browning

Pippa's Song .....
The Boy and the Angel .....
Protus ......

. 158
. 158
. 162

Aubrey de Vere

Zoe, an Athenian Child ....
A Convent School in a Corrupt City

. 164
. 165

Alice Cary (1820-1870).

My Darlings .....

. 165
. 166

John Godfrey Saxe

My Boyhood .....

. 167

Walt Whitman

There was a Child went forth

. 168

John Russell Lowell

The Changeling - . . . .
The First Snow-fall .....

. 171
. 173



"George Eliot" (1819-1880).
Brother and Sister

. 175

W. Bennett

Baby May

. 176

Frederick Locker

A Terrible Infant ....

The Widow's Mite

A Rhyme of One

The Old Cradle ....

. 177
. 178
. 178
. 179

George Macdonald

The Children's Heaven

Baby ......

■ 181
• 162

Coventry Patmore

The Toys .....

, 183

Sydney Dobell (1824-1874).
The Little Girl's Song

. 185

Adelaide Anne Procter (1825-1864).

God's Gifts „ . . . .

. 188

William Sawyer (1828-1882).
The Painted Window

. 190

Dinah M. Muloch Craik
Monsieur et Mademoiselle

. 193

Algernon Charles Swinburne

Etude Rfialiste ....


A Child's Pity ....

. 194
. 196
. 197


Geeald Massey

Our White Rose ....
Within a Mile ....

. 199
. 201

Mortimer Collins (1827-1876).
To a very young Lady

. 203

William Allingham

The Lullaby .....
Half- Waking ....

. 204
. 204

Theodore Watts

The Bedouin Child ....
A Gipsy-Child's Christmas

. 205
. 206

George Meredith

Martin's Puzzle ....
The Young Usurper ....

. 207
. 210

Christina Rossetti

Johnny .....
Buds and Babies

. 211

Jean Ingelow

The Snowdrop Monument .

. 214

"Owen Meredith"

Little Ella

. 216

Thomas Bailey Aldricii

Baby Bell . . . .

. 219

William Freeland

A Birth Song

. 222

Bret Harte

Dickens iu Camp ...

. 225



Austin Dobson

Daisy's Valentines ....
The Cradle

. 226
. 228

Robert Buchanan

The Dead Mother ....

. 229

J. ASHBY Sterry

The King of the Cradle

. 232

Hon. Roden Noel

The Toy Cross . . . . . ,234
Last Victims from the wreck of the "Princess Alice " 235
Only a Little Child 238

Mrs. Hamilton King

The Children . , , . .

. 240

Menella Bute Smedley

A Boy's Aspirations . . .

. 242


Wooden Legs .....
Deaf and Dumb ....

. 243
. 245

S. M. B. Piatt

A Dream's Awakening
Questions of the Hour

My Artist

Last Words

To Marian, Asleep ....

. 246
. 247
. 248
. 250
. 251

Author of " A Child's Life"
The Girl's Morning Prayer .
The Things in the Children's Drawer

. 253
, 254


Edmund Gosse


To My Daughter



. 255

Spillende Genier


. 256

To Teresa


. 258

Lewis Morris

At Chambers .



, 258

Robert Louis Stevenson

Young Night Thought



. 261

The Land of Counterpane .



. 261

Escaped at Bedtime


. 262

My Bed is a Boat



. 263

Joaquin Miller

The Unknown Tongue



. 263

William Sharp

Christmas Eve



. 264

Mathilde Blind

The Street Children's Dance



. 265

A. Mary F. Robinson

The School Children


. 269



E. S. R.


ALES from Arabia describe the wise
magician whose cunning ear, held
close to the ground in the hot
heart of an African desert, could
detect the pattering of children's
feet on the pavement of Bagdad,
discriminating voice from voice in the shouts
that accompanied their games. It is harder for
us to find, throughout ancient literature, many
echoes of youthful laughter or glimpses of youthful
smiles. The instinct that links parent to child
must always have been one of the best marked sen-
timents in primitive, as it is in modern writings ; but
the child by itself, as a study for the artist, either in
words or in plastic and graphic reproductive pro-
cesses, is an invention of the moderns. It seems


to be the case that as the world grows older it
more and more takes interest in things that are
young. The earliest poetry never received so
much attention as it does now. Prehistoric art
has in our days a multitude of students. We of
this critical age are searching into the beginnings of
things ; and one of our discoveries is, that the most
entrancing method of studying humanity's begin-
nings lies in the freshest problems God sends us.
The whole secret of humanity can be examined in
an infant, whether by laborious inductions of science
like Darwin's or by subtle divinations like Victor
Hugo's. In the early world, the general spirit of
man was more childlike, and tender lives were
looked at with less wistful eyes than our own.
But we, with our enlarged record of great na-
tions and great religions come to dust, and the
dark of futurity still before us — we, less filled with
the joy of living, turn with increasing interest to
the capacities for love and faith, the sense of the
goodness of existence, and the longing expectancy
of a growing brightness, that make up the spirit of

It is true that if we do put our ears very close to
the ground, and listen intently, we can catch a few
notes of child-humanity from far lands and times;
and these show us, as we might expect, that in every


age and clime the young resemble each other
closely in their feelings and habits. In Homer v/e
find boys building sand castles by the sea, or
hunting for wasps' nests, as our own children
might do. The old poet describes the crowd of
gay young rustics who attempt with their cudgels
to drive the wandering donkey out of a corn-field ;
and sulky Ajax facing the Trojans is likened to
that donkey. Hector at the Scaean Gate enacts
with wife and child the most beautiful tableau of
parental affection that ancient literature affords :
and even the selfish nature of Achilles has noted
the sorrows of a little maid : —

" Why weeps Patroclus like au iufaut girl,
That prays her mother, by whose side she rims,
To take her up, and, clinging to her gown,
Impedes her way, and still with tearful eyes
Looks in her face, until she takes her up ? "

It is this Achilles who in early days climbs on the
knees of his father's guest, clamours for a sip from
his goblet, and spills the wine over his bib. The
boy Ulysses walks with his father through the
home-garden, learning the names of trees and
flowers, and glancing proudly at the plot of ground
he has had given him — all to himself. Sweetest of
Homer's young folks, Nausicaa is herself hardlv


more than a child when the travelled hero rises from
his bed of leaves to disturb her game of ball. Few,
few are the references to childhood in ancient
literature so natural as Homer's. One indeed is so
very human that the fragment containing it will
never be forgotten —

" Hesperus brings all things back
Which tlie daylight made us lack —
Brings the sheep and goats to rest,
Brings the baby to the breast."

These lines of Sappho's remind us that perhaps the
first attempt at song that sprang from human lips
was a lullaby, and the first notion of metre derived
itself from the rocking of an infant in its mother's
arms or in a cradle.

Such hints show us that the Greeks took
the sweetness of childhood as a patent fact, and
cared to analyse it no more than they would have
wished to grasp at a cloud in the blue. In art they
held equally aloof from direct study of child-being.
But the Infant Bacchus sporting among submissive
beasts of the forest makes a picture that takes
from one of the least lovely of old superstitions
much of its grossness, and Cupid by the side of
Venus enables us to forget that most of her sighs
are wanton.


Far different, however, is the relation of mother
to child in the first great transition of art from
classicism. The Goose Boy of the Vatican collec-
tion, and here and there a stray example of a
like kind, may suggest that Greeks and Romans
never quite forgot to dally with children's beauty
in art ; but in the middle ages the child was sup-
pressed, save in the Church. In sculpture the
Church gave us little more than grotesques from the
hands of cathedral masons, and the wooden
bambini^ the worship of which was eagerly taken
up by the common people, as it still is — let any
one witness who steps into the Aracoeli Church,
at Rome in the Christmas time. In painting, the
Church allowed only emaciated Christs designed
in stiff lines full of symbolism. And the Virgin,
whose effigy was long prohibited in every form, was
scarcely attempted save in a symbolic style till
Cimabue's time. When all Florence turned out
to see Cimabue's Virgin and Child for an altar at
Santa Maria Novella, the excitement was due to
the fact that art was beginning to revolt from theo-
logical abstractions in favour of ordinary flesh and
blood. Giotto next tried to paint the Infant Saviour
naturally. Giotto draws Him laughing or crying,
and even playing with the symbolic apple held
in his hand. In sculpture, somewhat later, the

Renaissance of classical forms inspired Donatello
with his singing children for the Florentine Duomo,
Luca della Robbia with his child-fantasies in terra
cot/a, and John of Bologna with his bronze Cupids.

But Raphael's transcendent genius explored the
mysterious beauty of this theme. Never did the
monachism upheld by the Church receive a dead-
lier blow, save from Luther, than in the studies
of Madonna and Child painted by Raphael.
Abstractions vanished from his canvases, though he
retained many of the symbols. His Madonna was
a flesh-and-blood woman of the people, with a
healthily-developed child held to her ample bosom.
Well might the Church have been chary of allow-
ing artists to abandon the theologically abstract
method of representing a mysterious miracle-work-
ing Virgin with her still more mysterious Child.
In Raphael's pictures the most mysterious thing
about the Madonna is her exquisite womanly
beauty, and the worshippers who looked upon the
babes he depicted for them felt that he was draw-
ing portraits from their own homes. The blessings
of a man's home — wife and child — were what
Raphael's best canvases preached in every great
church of Italy.

While art was thus developing the cult of child-
hood, literature had scarcely awakened to the


subject. It is true that church dogmas were then
enshrining themselves in legends of varying beauty,
and the Holy Child perched on the broad shoulders
of St. Christopher, or descending to the outstretched
arms of the ecstatic St. Francis of Assisi, becomes
an object of interest to the poet, apart from the
religious doctrines with which such appearances
are connected. In Troubadour poetry, of course, we
have the page, but he is so artificial a specimen of
youth (even in his youngest stage) that he is not
worth staying to consider. Of interest in common
childhood around them the penmen of the dark
ages were almost wholly devoid ; and probably it
would be hard to produce from a century before
the fifteenth any passage of mark on the subject
save Dante's (in the "Inferno"), copied by
Chaucer —

** Of erl Hugilin of Pise the languour
Ther may no tonge telle for pite.
But litel out of Pise stant a tour,
In -whiche tour in prisoun put was he ;
And with him been his litel children thre,
Theldest skarsely fyf yer was of age ;
Alias ! fortune ! it was gret cruelty
Suche briddes to put in such a cage."

The story of Ugolino's starvation with his babes


is told by our poet— through the Monke's lips— in
brief, but,

" Who-so will hiere it in a lenger wise,
Rede the gret poet of Itaile,
That high Dauute, for he can it devise
Fro poyut to poynt nought oon word wil he fayle,"

Chaucer likewise gives us glimpses of his sunny
sympathies in the Prioresse's Tale of a martyred
Christian boy —

** Ther was in Acy, in a gret citee
Amonges Cristen folk a Jewerye,
Susteyned by a lord of that contr^,
For foul usure and lucre of felonye,
Hateful to Crist, and to his corapaignye ;
And thurgh the strete men mighte ride and wende,
For it was fre, and open at everiche end.

A litel scole of Cristen folk ther stood
Doun at the forther end, in which ther were
Children an heep y-comen of Cristen blood,
That lered in that scole, yer by yere.
Such maner doctrine as men usede there ;
This is to saye, to synge and to rede.
As smale childer doon in her childhede.

Among these children was a widow sone,
A litel clergeonn, that seve yer was of age.
That day by day to scole was his wone j


And eek also, wherso he sangh thymage
Of Cristes moder, had he m usage,
A.S him was taught, to knele adoun, and saye
Bis Ave Maria, as he gotn by the waye."

The little scholar's hymn-singing is resented by
the Jews of the quarter, and old Satan

" That hath iu Jewes hert his waspis nest,"

brings about his murder. On the whole, the story
is repulsive —

" Ther he with throte i-corve lay upright.
He Alma redemptoris gan to sjTige
So lowde, that al the place bigan to rynge."

Among our early English writers, we might have
expected Spenser to have given evidence of sym-
pathy for child life ; but he has not even left us
an elegy upon the child he lost in the terrible
Irish fire. Sir Walter Raleigh hands down to us
grotesque lines to his son about the gallows, and
Gower begins a respectable poem "On the Nativity
of Christ," thus —

" Rorate, Coeli desuper !
Heavens, distil your balmy show'rs,
For now is risen the bricht day-star
For the Rose-May, flow'r of liow'rs :


The clear sun, whom no cloud devours,
Surmounting Phoebus in the east,
Is coming of his heavenly tow'rs ;
Et nobis Puer natus est."

The first really fine child-poem in our literature is
Southwell's " Burning Babe." Its exquisitely pure
feeling, and the mystic light and heat of the language,
render the poem so impressive that it can be learnt
off by heart after two or three readings. Occurring
so early in the present collection, the " Burning
Babe " really shows us the point from which both
the literature and the art of modern times had to
start, in their treatment of the child — the glorifica-
tion of young Jesus. Readers of this volume will
note that I have chosen to represent Mr. William
Sharp among poets of our own day, with fine
lines that have a note somewhat like that of South-
well's piece, though their composition was unin-
fluenced by it. Southwell's noble spirit endured
the wounds and thorns, like his Master : love was
the fire, sighs were the smoke, the ashes — " shame
and scorn." After years of torture in a dungeon,
all which he endured steadfastly as a martyr for
Catholicism, he was condemned to death in 1594,
and the hands of bigots hanged him in company
with a highwayman, afterwards disembowelling and
quartering his body. Sir Edward Coke conducted


the shameful prosecution of this high-souled Jesuit,
with whose family, by the way, Percy Bysshe
Shelley was connected by descent. While Southwell
was rotting in his dungeon, in the reign of good
Queen Bess, Shakespeare was playing his many
parts ; and about the time of the Romanist martyr's
execution, the dramatist's " King John" was being
finished. It is in this play that Shakespeare
gives us his only notable child-character, and the
scene in which Arthur's " artless eloquence " pleads
with Hubert against the decree of his malignant
uncle remains one of the most deeply-moving
passages in our dramatic literature. Strong as it
is, however, it is not nature. Is this the language
of a child, however noble of blood and valiant in
bearing % —

" Arthur. The instrument is cold,
And would not harm me.

Hubert. I can heat it, boy.

Arthur. No, in good sooth ; the fire is dead with grief,
Being create for comfort, to be us'd
In undeserv'd extremes : See else yourself ;
There is no malice in this burning coal ;
The breath of heaven hath blown his spirit out
And strew'd repentant ashes on his head.

Hubert. But with my breath I can revive it, boy.

Arthur. And if you do, you will but make it blush,
And glow with shame of your proceedings, Hubert :


Nay it, perchance, will sparkle in your eyes ;
And, like a dog that is compell'd to fight,
Snatch at his master that doth tarre him on.
All things, that you should use to do me wrong,
Deny their office : only you do lack
That mercy which fierce fire, and iron, extends.
Creatures of note for mercy -lacking uses."

A most Euphuistic young hero, this, to indulge in
so many brave salhes of fancy at such a moment
of agony ! This is not the stuff of which children
|i are made ; nor has the well-nigh all-creative genius
[: of Shakespeare given us any deep readings of
i child-nature. Stray allusions to children occur
\ throughout his plays with more or less effect : in
i "King John'' we have that pathetic moan of a
mother, when Constance speaks : —

" Grief fills the room up of my absent child ;
Lies in his bed ; walks up and down with me ;
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me in all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form ;
Then have I reason to be fond of grief."

And poet's strength describes the murdered Princes
of the Tower thus, albeit the speakers are supposed
to be rude-witted varlets : —


" * thus,' quoth Dighton, * lay the gentle babes ' —
' Thus, thus,' quoth Forrest, ' folding one another '
Within their alabaster innocent arms :
Their lips were four red roses on a stalk.
Which, in their summer beauty, kiss'd each other.
A book of prayer on their pillow lay ;
Which once,' quoth Forrest, ' almost chang'd my mind ;
But, ! the devil ' — there the villain stopp'd *
When Dighton thus told on, * We smothered
The most replenished sweet work of nature
That, from the prime creation, e'er she fram'd.' "

The pity of this tale is only approached by the old
ballads of " The Children in the Wood " (some
say, the disguised history of Richard the Third's
little nephews), and "The Cruel Mother," other-
wise called, "Fine Flowers of the Valley." I
have been unwilling to give this last ballad in the
body of the book, because of its repellent subject —
the murder a mother commits on her new-born
babe. The concluding verses of the powerful story
may be quoted : —

" She's howket a grave by the light o' the moon,
Fine flowers in the valley ;
And there she's buried her sweet babe in,
And the green leaves they grow rarely.

As she was going to the church.
Fine flowers in the valley ;

She saw a sweet "babe in the porch,
And the green leaves they groio rarely.

* sweet babe, if thou wert mine,*
Fine flowers in the valley ^

' I wad deed thee in silk and sabelline ; '
And the green leaves they grow rarely.

' mother mine, when I was thine,'
Fine flowers in the valley ^

* You did na prove to me sae kind,'
And the green leaves they grow rarely.

* But now I'm in the heavens hie,'
Fine flowers in the valley ^

' And ye have the pains o' hell to dree ' —
And the green leaves they grow rarely."

Of the writers who followed the Elizabethans,
Quarles will be missed from this collection. He
wrote but one child-poern of power, and its
merits are so overgrown by conceits that I have
omitted it. It is entitled " On the Infancy of our
Saviour," and in some respects resembles the
quaint poem on the same subject that I have
drawn from the works of Crashaw. Quarles's
verses commence in this fashion : —

" Hail, blessed Virgin, full of heavenly grace.
Blest above all that sprang from human race ;

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Online LibraryEric S. (Eric Sutherland) RobertsonThe children of the poets : an anthology from English and American writers of three centuries → online text (page 1 of 14)