Oh, Why Was He Taken?
Dedicated To Mrs. H. Scott Howell, of Keokuk, Iowa.
Oh, why was he taken in Life's early morning,
Your only ―your darling ―your beautiful boy ?
Why torn from your arms without whisper or warning,
The babe that you counted a ' well-spring of joy'?
Did you love him too much? Had the future been gilded
With pictures too golden ―with dreams all too bright ?
And was it for this all the hopes you had builded
Were shattered and crushed by Death's withering blight?
What is home to you now, since your hearthstone may never
Be gladdened again by that innocent face,―
Since the light of his presence has vanished forever,
And no sign of the soft, dimpled hands you may trace?
As you sit by his crib, with his playthings beside you,
His rattle and ring and each worn, broken toy,
Your empty hearts reach for the treasure denied you,
And your lips wait in vain for the kiss of your boy.
And you wonder, so often, if this folded blossom
In Eden's own light will unopened remain ;
When your bud is reclaimed, will you clasp to your bosom
Your baby ―the dear, angel-baby― again?
Will it rest on His breast, 'as a child,' till your coming,
In His sheltering arms Who bade children to come ?
'Oh, yes !' Faith replies, as you look through the gloaming:
'Not lost ―only waiting with Jesus― at Home.'
All their childish sports were over,
All their mimic work was done,
And they came and knelt beside me,
Hushed and solemn, one by one.
Meekly were their soft hands folded,
And, with young heads lowly bowed,
Softly fell their ' Our Father,'
As a star-beam through a cloud.
When the solemn prayer was ended,
And the last ' Good-night' was told,
From my lap the baby clambered,
Tiny waif, a twelvemonth old.
Dimpled hands were clasped together,
Blue eyes raised with reverent grace,
While a look of sweet devotion
Gathered on his cherub face.
Wherefore came that mute appealing?
Wherefore,was his white soul stirred,
Ere his crimson lips had parted
With the first low, trembling word?
Could an earnest wish be prisoned
In the Eden of his heart ?
Did a prayer for heavenly guidance
From that stainless spirit start?
'Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit's voiceless prayer,'
To my ear the whisper floated
As I watched him kneeling there;
Gazed and murmured, 'Meet for heaven
Are the prayers of such as he;
Innocence, in silent pleading,
At the throne of Purity.'
Then I thought of all the lessons
Taught by Him, the Undefiled ;
Most I loved His simple sermon
With this text, 'A little child.'
And these sacred words seemed uttered:
' Humble, trusting, free from sin,
As the babe who kneels beside thee,
Must thou be to enter in.'
You may talk of the exquisite paintings
You guard with the tenderest care ;
Of your statues of Parian marble,
So faultless, so perfect, so rare ;
But give me a call, and I'll show you
Some pictures more fair to behold
Than ever were drawn by the masters,
Whose names down the ages have rolled.
At Christmas I took down my statues,
My Cupids and Psyches and all ;
And the gloom of the place made me shudder
As I turned to the desolate wall-
Bright curls that the sunlight had garnished,
Dark tresses, the midnight had bound,
And mirth-loving eyes, all had vanished,
While red lips could nowhere be found.
But now they are back in their niches,
My statues of value untold ;
My pictures in ebony framings,
And some sfet in amber and gold.
The room has grown bright with their presence,
The gloom and the silence have fled,
For the crown of His sweet benediction
Still rests on each innocent head.
And the thought, as they gather each morning
And murmur the prayer that He gave,
That His dear, loving arms are around them,
Makes my own sinking heart, ofttimes, brave.
So I nestle down closely beside them,
And trust, when the Saviour shall see
The white souls that flutter about me,
His blessing will touch even me.
Am I faithful, I wonder, in tilling
The soil of their hearts day by day?
Will the seed I am patiently sowing
Spring up but to wither away?
The mold is not rocky nor barren,
But tares may spring— tares of sin ;
Yet I trust to His care all their future,
Who gathers the golden sheaves in.
All this blessed summer morning,
With the golden sunlight round me,
Has my heart bowed down, o'erburdened
With its mournful tenderness,—
With this longing for the baby-
That for weary months has bound me,
For the look her blue eyes gave me,
And her winning, fond caress.
I have heard some grief is deeper:
That of mourning ones still yearning
For the brave hearts stilled forever
'Mid the clash of war's alarms,
But I know no sadder picture
Than fond memory, slowly turning
From the past, to gaze in silence
On a mother's empty arms.
Oh, they told me, those who knew not,
That I would not miss her ever,—
Would not always start expectant
At the mention of her name ;
But as many moons have vanished
Since the Father bade us sever,
As her brief existence numbered,
And the void seems just the same.
Often, as the night advanceth,
From my troubled sleep upstarting,
Am I roused by what seem echoes
Of my baby's plaintive cry.
And I catch familiar accents
From my trembling lips departing,—
Whispers of some name endearing,
Or some soothing lullaby.
And my spirit sinks when fadeth
This, my slumber's bright creating,
Till Faith breathes, ' Her fleeting life
Was but a glimpse of heaven to thee.
There in changeless, endless beauty
Is thy angel babe awaiting
To be folded to thy bosom
Through a long eternity.'
So I gaze off with the dawning,
To where day in light is breaking,—
Where the white gleam of the marble
Tells me some death's waves have crossed ;
And I muse, without a shudder,
On that sleep that hath no waking,
For I know it must o'ertake me
Ere I see the loved and lost.
Oh, I trust they'll lay my ashes
Close beside this faded blossom !
Would my arms might twine around her,
And her lips to mine be pressed !
'Twere so sweet to think the casket
Might be folded to my bosom,
That our dust might not be parted
In that deep, unbroken rest !
Apostrophe To The Galaxy
What are ye, arrayed in your robings of white,
Beyond where the sun drinks in oceans of light;
Surmounting the stars, ay, the farthest we see
Just penciling heaven to prove that ye be?
A cluster so dreamy, expanding, and fair
Creates in the mind a fond wish to be there.
Your orbit our vision can never descry:
What are ye, in fleecy attiring on high ?
Bright orbs, do ye give to the comet its ray,
Careering through space with impetuous sway?
Or, destined as vigils, watch over expanse,
To guard other worlds from the comet's advance?
So clustering are ye, so dense in your path,
Ye may save this fair earth from the wanderer's wrath.
What are ye? Oh, say, does your circuit extend
Round orbs where the angels their minstrelsy blend ?
And do ye pour forth on the throng and the choir
The splendor of light from the disk of your fire?
If such be your destiny, Galaxy bright,
The music how rapturous, blended with light!
Like the songs of the spheres when the Deity's voice
In the light of creation made angels rejoice.
What are ye? If not what the muse has defined,
Then are ye not orbits of beautiful mind ?
Are the white, stainless robes ye expand to our view
la chasteness the emblems of mind among you?
In fancy's excursions behold I not there
In your orbs so resplendent, your region so fair,
Intelligence, rising by intellect's force
Still nearer to Him, of perfection the source,
With natures immortal, all spotless in soul,
And cherishing mind, as in splendor ye roll?
Behold I not, grouped round your altars of praise,
Your children, at even, their orisons raise?
Or, cheerful and happy, in youth's ardent glow,
All sporting in fields where the wild-flowers grow?
A father bends over his boy with a smile,
A mother caresses her infant the while;
Joy blended with joy, and bliss mingled with bliss,
In the fond interchange of a smile and a kiss.
Methinks I can see, by your rills and bland streams,
Your poets, entranced in elysian dreams,
Or, waked from their raptures among your green bowers,
Rehearsing their numbers while culling the flowers;
The learned of your system—philosophers wise,
Astronomers, mapping the stars of your skies,
Vast oceans expanding, your landscapes serene,
Your redolent groves and your valleys of green.
If systems of mind ye are not, still the word,
What are ye ? No answer but echo is heard.
Do ye lead in the van of the spheres as they whirl?
Is the vision of whiteness the flag ye unfurl ?
And, on the reverse, are there emblems displayed
Of orbs in full splendor and glory arrayed ?
Whate'er ye may seem to our dim, mortal view,
Bright star-isles that gleam in your ocean of blue,
We will deem you a stellar assemblage refined,
And with you compare the bright grouping of mind,
To show how it can, like the stars, by its glow,
Relieve our life's orb from the gloom of its woe.
Came she with the April dawning ;
Such a tiny, tender thing,
Little sisters thought a seraph
Bore her earthward 'neath its wing.
And they said her harp was heavy
As her golden, starry crown,
Else the kind bestowing angel
Would have tried to bring it down.
And they spoke in softest whispers
When she nestled to my breast,
Saying, as they gazed above them,
' 'Twas so far she needeth rest.'
So she slumbered, Baby Margie,
Dreaming of her native skies;
This we knew, for, on awaking,
Heaven still lingered in her eyes.
April flow' ret ! Spring's first blossom !
How our thoughts would onward rove,
Picturing, from her fair unfolding,
What the perfect flower might prove !
Thinking how new joy would thrill us,
Deeper transports still be stirred,
When her trembling voice came freighted
With the first sweet, lisping word.
Musing how her step uncertain
Soon our guidance would repay ;
Tender feet ! Life's paths were rugged,—
All too rough to lure her stay.
So she wandered, Baby Margie,
Upward to the golden strand,—
Left the hearts that could not hold her,
Reaching toward the spirit-land.
Earth seems lone and drear without her,
Home is robbed of half its bliss,
For our hearts' exultant morning
Broke with her awakening kiss.
Faith looks up, but Love still turneth,
Bruised and bleeding, to the dust ;
And, in tones of wildest anguish,
Cries to Him for perfect trust.
Lips whose gentlest pressure thrilled us,
Cheek and brow so saintly white,
Underneath the church-yard daisies
They have hid ye all from sight.
Though we yielded back her spirit
Trustingly to God who gave,
'Twas as if our hearts were buried
When we left our darling's grave.
There's an empty crib beside us,
And the wrappings still remain,
Showing, from their careful folding,
Where a precious form has lain.
Yestereve a string of coral,
In my searching, met my view,
And a half-worn, crimson stocking
Prisoned in a dainty shoe.
When the children's sports are over,
When their mimic work is done,
When they come and kneel before me,
Hushed and solemn, one by one,—
When their low-voiced 'Our Father'
Meekly from their young lips fall,
And they rise and wait in silence,
Then I miss her most of all.
'Twas her lips, while yet she lingered,
Claimed the last, the warmest kiss,
And their saddened, wistful glances
Tell me truly what they miss.
And they wonder if she wants me
In her home so strange and new ;
'Tis a point I cannot answer,
For I often wonder, too.
Though I know the seraphs bore her
To the mansions of the blest ;
Still, I think, she must have missed me
When she left my longing breast.
And I trust some angel-mother,
Followed by her pleading eyes,
Took her gently to her bosom
When my cherub reached the skies.
Father-love, I know, is holy :
In the heavenly Parent's arms
All His spotless lambs are gathered,
Free from pain or earth's alarms.
But the thought that some fond mother,
Yearning for her babe below,
Clasped my little orphan -angel
To her heart, with love aglow,
Makes me feel that naught is wanting
To perfect her bliss above ;
For her gentle, trusting spirit
Needs a mother's tenderest love.
Kind Old Year ! thou gavest our treasure
With the opening buds of spring,
And our grateful spirits thanked thee
For thy vernal offering.
But, alas ! thou couldst not leave her
To the chance of coming woe,
So thou blessed her dreamless slumber
Ere thy summons came to go.
Fond Old Year ! Such tearful memories
Bind my mourning soul to thee !
In thy arms my baby tasted
Life and immortality.
Thou and she have gone together,—
Crossed the bounds of Time's dark swell,—
Therefore let my benediction
Mingle with thy parting knell.
Recollections Of Pittsburg
Arouse thee, my muse !
From thy lethargy start,
And weave into words
What thou' It find in my heart.
Let thy harp be new-strung,
And obey my command,
To sing me a song
Of my own native land,—
Of the clime where I roamed,
With a heart light and free
As the ripples that dance
On the breast of the sea;
Where I flitted along
With my innocent dreams,
As free as the breezes
That dimpled our streams.
Where, stretched on the greensward,
Grown weary of play,
I slept through the noon
Of the long summer's day.
Where winter brought sledges
And mountains of snow ;
And bridged all the streams
In the valley below.
Where I wished some good fairy
Would give me the power
To turn to a zephyr,
A bird, or a flower ;
A sunbeam—a dewdrop,
A sprite free and wild;
It mattered not what
So I was not a child.
How well I remember
How urchins, in crowds,
Would scale some tall spire
That seemed reaching the clouds,
To prove to the timorous,
To what wonderful heights
Silken bubbles could go !
What shouts rent the air
When each miniature thing
Rode off on the wind,
With the pride of a king !
What wondrous surmises
By all were begun,
As to where it would stop,—
At the moon, stars, or sun !
Then the hill that surrounded
The ' City of Smoke ;'
What scenes of enchantment
Its vistas awoke !
The meeting of waters,—
The trio in view ;
Their jeweled hands clasping,—
How steadfast, how true,
The union of hearts,
Whose High-Priest was the sun !
Whose vows were, ' Henceforward,
Name, purposes, one!'
What wonder that picture
In memory is laid,
Too faithful to perish,
Too constant to fade.
I've a brother (God bless him !)
Whose joy used to be
To sit in the twilight
With ' Sis' on his knee,
And tell her in whispers
Of angels of light
Floating down through earth-shadows
To watch her by night;
That no good little girl
Need be ever afraid,
For His arms were about her
In sunlight and shade;
That even the babe
On a fond mother's breast
Nor shudders, nor shrinks,
When He calls it to Rest.
Years have fled, and now ' Sis'
Has to matronhood grown ;
While the 'brother' calls sons
In ripe manhood his own.
But those lessons of Faith,
His sweet pictures of Trust,
Will live when the lips
That portrayed them are dust.
With the wealth of the Indies
Can never be bought
The rapturous bliss
Of each beautiful thought,
That has sprung from the seed
That were sown in Life's spring,
When no grief bowed my spirit
Nor trammeled its wing.
'Tis a chilling remembrance,
(It frightens me yet,)
The day I trudged homeward
Had played truant from school,
And, most shocking of all,
Had taken a bath
In our famous canal.
' How father will threaten!
How mother will scold !'
I whispered, while trembling
From terror and cold.
And when sister came in
And wet garments descried,
' Oh, my I' I returned to her
'Sis, you must hide.'
How gently and softly
In bed was I laid,
And never was told
The excuse she had made!
Yet that night, when our household
All quietly slept,
I knew that my mother
Bent o'er me and wept.
One tender hand lifted
My pillow of down,
The other moved soft
O'er my tresses of brown,
While lips that might banish
My dream, did they speak,
Left the seal of their pardon
And love on my cheek.
I am changed from the truant
Of life's early spring ;
Am no longer a dreamer,
A light-hearted thing.
Yet, could Fancy transport me
To where I command,
I'd be off in a trice
To my own native land.
Would fly to the common,
And search for the swing;
Would clamber the hill-side,
And drink at the spring ;
On the meeting of waters
Would gaze with delight,
And watch the balloons
As they hurry from sight;
Would haste to the homestead,—
The homestead—ah me !
Where now are the boughs
Of our family tree?
No father to welcome,
No mother to bless;
No sister to shield,
And no brother's caress;
The hearthstone deserted,—
The love-light all fled ;
The children far distant,
The parent tree—dead.
While the dreamer of old,
With her lyre in her hand,
Essayeth to sing
Of her dear, native land.
The Eastern Star
Read before the members of this degree at Hamilton, Illinois, on St. John's Day, June 24, 1875.
Most worthy Patron, Matron, friends,
The blue sky fondly o'er us bends;
This grand old river at our feet
Listens, as if 'twould fain repeat
To distant shore or passing breeze
A murmur of our melodies.
Oh, wisely chosen, the gentle Five,
Whose spotless virtues we should strive
To imitate, that we may be
Worthy adoptive Masonry ;
Worthy to learn their sacred rite
When heavenly Orders greet our sight;
Worthy to catch the mystic sign
When Eastern stars below us shine;
Worthy to learn the pass-word given
By the sweet Sisterhood of heaven,
When golden gates are open wide,
By loved ones on the other side.
Mizpah!* the very name is fraught
With sweet significance ; for thought
Carries the heart to other years;
The circlet on the hand appears
As first it glowed when, 'Only thine,'
Responded to the mystic sign.
On Gilead's mount the maiden stood,
Not dreaming of the vow of blood
That bound her, in her budding bloom,
To meet a dread, unaltered doom.
The father came, exultant, back,
Hoping a pet -lamb on the track
Would, bounding, welcome his return ;
But, ah ! sad fate the truth to learn !
His lovely child, with flying feet,
Hastened, her honored sire to meet.
Then Jephthah told his vow, and said,
' Would that my life might serve instead !'
But the proud daughter answered, ' No !
'Twas to the Lord,—it must be so.'
That answer stands, a first Degree,
In our adoptive Masonry.
O Constancy ! bright badge of love,
Ruth did thy mighty fullness prove.
' Where'er thou goest I will go;
Thy resting-place I, too, must know;
Thy fate, thy country, I will try,
And where thou diest I will die.'
Forsaking Moab's dewy sod,
Her kindred and her people's God,
Of faithful Mahlon's love bereft,
Her fond heart had Naomi left.
' Esther, my queen ! what wilt thou, say?
If half my kingdom, I obey !'
The golden sceptre near her bent,
Admiring numbers gazed intent;
She, kneeling, touched the shining thing,
And cried, ' My people ! O my king !'
Fidelity to kindred shone
In every feature, and her tone,
Though tremulous, was firm and brave
As the fond look of love she gave.
The Crown and Sceptre thus find place
Whene'er our third Degree we trace.
' Hadst Thou been here, he had not died !'
Weeping, the trusting Martha cried ;
'Yet, even now, O blessed Lord,
My soul hangs trembling on Thy word !'
Oh, love sublime ! Oh, wondrous power,
To stay her in affliction's hour!
Her white arms, raised in mute appeal,
Her spirit's eager hope reveal.
She sees,—she feels her Saviour nigh,
And Faith repeats its yearning cry :
'I know that he will rise again,
Yet even now'—and not in vain
The sweet voice plead,—she led the way
To where the lifeless Lazarus lay;
And then across His brow there swept
A mortal sorrow,—
Then His diviner nature spoke :
' Lazarus, come forth !' The dead awoke
To learn a woman's faith could prove
The largeness of a Saviour's love,
To learn His pitying heart could melt
When those He Joved in anguish knelt.
Our broken Column,—fourth Degree,
Is type of Death in Masonry;
The Evergreen, its shaft beside,
Emblem of fields beyond the tide,
Where, in Fidelity complete,
Sits Martha at her Saviour's feet.
' Forgive them, Father ! they are blind !'
Thus prayed Electa, ever kind;
Her husband, children, home were gone,
Yet, brave and true, she stood alone.
The tender hands that gently led
The needy in, the hungry fed,
That prisoned in their fervent hold
The wretched wanderer, pinched and cold,
That held her hospitable Cup
To famished lips so bravely up,
Those hands condemned (so soft and fair)
The Crucifixion pang to bear !
Her perfect confidence in God,
Her sweet submission 'neath the rod,
Form, of her attributes, the key
To ope our sacred fifth Degree.
Lo ! in the East the Magi saw
The star, and, filled with holy awe,
They followed, in their winding way,
To where the Babe of Bethlehem lay.
A woman's hand its brow caressed,—
'Twas pillowed on a woman's breast;
While its first look of pleased surprise
Found answer in a woman's eyes.
Then, may not Woman bear a part
In Masonry's exalted art?
And what bright emblem, near or far,
Significant as Eastern Star?
Our Worthy Matron long has stood
Crowned with her badge of Motherhood,
And knows full well the rapturous bliss
That woke with Mary's welcoming kiss.
Our Worthy Patron guardian stands,
Ready to guide with willing hands;
Explaining Emblem, Signet, Hue,
Exhorting us to honor true,
Telling how widowed Ruth 'could glean
Humbly the golden sheaves between ;
Extolling Martha's changeless trust,
When life had sought its kindred dust ;
Recalling Esther's pleading tone,
That moved* Assyria's mighty throne;
And holding, like a crystal cup,
Electa's pure devotion up.
Be ye, my sisters, tender, true,
As our sweet type, the Violet blue ;
Steadfast as flower that ne'er will shun
The rising nor the setting sun.
Pure as the spotless Lily shine;
Changeless and bright as leaves of Pine;
Fervent of soul as Life can be
When warmed by glowing Charity.
Friends, brothers of the mystic tie,
Can we, unnoticed, pass you by ?
You, who have dried the widow's tears
And hushed the trembling orphan's fears?
Who, linked as in a golden band,
With widening circles fill our land?
Can aged eyes, though dimmed by tears,
Shut out the home that still appears
Changeless and bright to memory's view
As when both life and hope were new?
Can the fair bride forget the tone
That answers fondly to her own?
Or sister from remembrance tear
An elder brother's constant care ?
Till this can be will we disclaim
That Masonry is but a name;
Till this can be we'll chant afar
The praises of the Eastern Star,
That led the wandering shepherds on
Until, at the awakening dawn,
It rested, like a royal gem,
Upon the brow of Bethlehem.
Eighteen Hundred And Sixty-Two
I'd a dream last night : in the dim twilight
I was thrilled by a strange emotion ;
For the Old Year came, with his withered frame,
And led me on by a torch of flame
To the verge of the p&hless ocean.
In our onward flight, by the lurid light
Beamed his eye with a spectral brightness;
And he shivered so in the drifting snow,
While his silvered hairs fluttered to and fro
O'er a forehead of ghostly whiteness.
Yet he made no moan as we hurried on,
While the stars bent, pitying, o'er him;
Though from rock and dell rose a parting knell,
And the weird trees whispered a low farewell
As their shadows knelt before him.
But he paused with me by the grand old Sea,
Where the Nighty in her glory slumbered ;
And he gathered sand from the golden strand,
And said, as it dropped from his palsied hand,
' 'Tis thus that my hours are numbered.
' Yet before I go to my couch of snow
I will sing, though my voice may quiver;
For my heart is brave as yon dauntless wave
That laughs ere it leaps to its ocean grave,
To be locked in its depths forever.
' But no thought of earth, with her joy and mirth,
Upon memory's page is beaming;
Not her sweet spring flowers, or her summer hours,
Or the whispered echoes from love-lit bowers,
Or her bright autumnal gleaming.
'For these strains are old, you have heard them told
By the years that have dawned and perished ;
And the witching ways of their smiling Mays,
And their golden, dreamy October days,
Are like those I once fondly cherished.
' So my voice shall sweep to the boundless deep,
Far down 'neath the wild waves hoary,
That madly tore from their glittering floor
The magic chain, lest the listening shore
Might learn of their viewless glory.
* * * *
' Then list to me, and I'll sing to thee
Of the mystic depths where I've wandered free;
Of the coral halls and the diamond bed
Where old Neptune sits with his pale-faced dead;
Of the fairy grottoes of gold and pearl,
That the sea-nymphs weave for each fair young girl
That the storm-king bears from the ocean's crest
And lays, in her beauty, down to rest.
' Oh, wonderful things have I seen below,
Where the bright fern clings and the sea-flowers blow;
Where the mermaids gather and slyly hide
Their red-lipped shells from the amorous tide;
Where shattered wrecks, with their gold-heaped spars,
On the pebbles gleam like a heaven of stars.
' 'There is one bright spot that I love to scan:
'Tis the emerald couch of a valiant man,
Whom the breakers' roar nor the flame-lit sky,
Nor the prayers of kindred, could urge to fly.
The ship's on fire !' like a funeral knell
On the hearts of that startled crew it fell;
And strong men shook, as the lurid glare
On the waters gleamed like a hideous stare;
And women shrieked, as with fiendish sound
The fiery serpents hemmed them round,
And hissed in glee as their fangs were pressed
Through the babes that slept on their mothers' breast.
But the brave commander, with dauntless mien,
At the helm of the sinking ship was seen
And when maddened flames through the crackling shrouds
And the hot air leaped till they licked the clouds,
When the whirlwind force of the tempest's breath
Swept the tottering wreck in the jaws of death,
With the firm, strong grasp of an iron will
He clung to the mast, and he clings there still.
' The beautiful maidens adown the main
Have tried to untwine his grasp in vain;
They made him a couch of the greenest moss
And the snow-white down of the albatross;
And they placed at the head, for a funeral stone,
The shell that could utter the softest moan ;
And they tried to melt in their gentle hold
The icy touch of those fingers cold.
But they found it vain ; so with tender care
They wove a pillow of sea-weeds there,
And, circling around it, these matchless girls
Knelt as they severed their own bright curls,
And tossed them down till their sheen was pressed
By the brave man's feet they had wooed to rest.
And 'tis thus he stands, like a warrior bold,
Chained to the wreck with his iron hold.
'And far away, where the billows moan
In a sadder strain and with softer tone,
I have seen, in its infant beauty, lay
A bright creation of human clay,
As pure its cheek and its brow as fair
As dews from heaven or the snow-flakes are;
And the dimpled hands round that cherub face
Were fondly clasped in a long embrace,
While the sleep that closed its unconscious eye
Grew deep 'neath the waves' soft lullaby.
A. lonesome thing seemed that babe to me,
Rocked in the arms of the great, broad sea;
A wee, small thing to have come so far
All by itself, without spot or scar;
A frail, weak thing, with no hand to guide
Such tender feet down the rugged tide.
Yet I know when they launched that unguided barge
The void in its mother's heart seemed large
As the ocean's self, and her grief as wild
As the breakers dashing above her child.
' But my strain must cease :—through the starlight clear
I have heard the steps of the coming Year;
My pulses flutter, my eye grows dim,
Yet once I was merry and strong like him.
Oh, my brighter days !—they are crowding back :
I am gazing now on Spring's rosy track,
Till the Summer comes with her broad, bright smile,
And the Autumn follows her steps the while.
But they vanish now,—yes, they all have flown,
And left me here, with the Night, alone.
I'm a frail old man,—all my bright dreams sped,
My fond hopes crushed, and my loved ones dead.
Well, my snow-couch waits me,—yon phantom bell
Is tolling slowly my parting knell.
I will rest me here where the wild waves sweep :—
Good-night, fair Earth, I—must—sink—to—sleep.'
So the Old Year slept, and the New Year leaped
From the clouds to the moaning billow;
And he bade it stand on the golden strand,
And guide his steps with its jeweled hand
To the aged champion's pillow.
And the New Year bowed, while the starry crowd
That had thronged the verge of even
Marked his earnest gaze, and in hymns of praise
They told the birth of this Prince of Days
To the countless hosts of heaven.
And the clouds drew up, from their magic cup,
The tears that each gentle flower
Had wept unseen when the earth was green,
And faithless zephyrs, with flattering mien,
Went wooing from bower to bower.
And this treasured dew, when the year was new,
They poured from their crystal chalice,
Till it touched his brow, though I scarce knew how,
Nor yet who had breathed the baptismal vow
That rang through his midnight palace.
Then I saw him fly through the sapphire sky,
Earth's spells and her fetters scorning,
Till he sat alone where his sire had flown,
A crowned king on his royal throne:—
And when I awoke—it was morning.
Aged ten years.
Who that has seen some household idol fade
Like opening bud before the chilling blast,
Can faintly know His sufferings when He said,
' If Thou wilt, Father, let this cup be passed.'
And whosoever, when that life hath fled,
Can bow submissively and drain the cup,
And cry, 'Thy will be done,' though Hope has fled,
Has faith enough through life to bear her up.
I knelt beside her and, despairing, prayed;
Her little, pleading voice caught up the strain:
' Oh, spare me, Father, for her sake,' she said;
' Give me back life and strength and love again! '
' Or if, my Father, it seems best to Thee
From future woe to take my treasured one,
Do as Thou wilt, for Thou alone canst see:
Give me but faith to cry, ' Thy will be done! ' '
I rose and kissed her while she faintly smiled;
Her breath grew shorter and her pulse beat low;
' The morning dawneth; 'tis thy birthday, child!
God gave thee to me just ten years ago.
Thy father laid thee in these waiting arms
Amid the shadows of the morning dim,
And now, with all thy childhood's added charms,
I yield, and give thee back to God and him.'
The dying grasp was tightened round my own,
As if to bear me with her in her flight;
' Thou'rt going, love,' I said, 'but not alone:
He bears thee -upward to the world of light.
Thy mother's voice shall be the last on earth
To soothe her darling ere the cord is riven,
And, at thy spirit's new and glorious birth,
Thy father's first to welcome thee to heaven.'
Thus she went from us in the morning gray,
Her earthly and her heavenly birthday one;
Leaving behind her only pulseless clay,
And a crushed heart to cry, 'Thy will be done.'
We robed her, as she said, in spotless white,
And lifted grandma for a parting kiss;
Then bore the lovely burden from her sight
And bade the children come. How they would miss
The kindling eye, the earnest, welcoming voice,
The hand's warm pressure, and the beaming smile!
But they all gathered there, both girls and boys,
And as they stood around, and gazed, the while,
I bade them sing the songs she loved so well:
Their Sabbath greetings and their closing lays;
And, as their trembling accents rose and fell,
I felt an angel voice had joined their praise.
'Twas her delight in concert thus to meet
The children in the Sabbath morning's glow;
To sit and learn with them the story sweet
How Jesus came to bless them here below.
And can it be that never, never more,
Her joyful voice will join the sacred songs?
That not till I have reached the shining shore
My ear will catch the tone for which it longs?
Yet hush! sad heart! my loss is her release!
What is the school below to that above?
How will our Sabbaths here compare in peace
With that serener day that dawns above?
What melody, what cadence half so sweet
As swells when angel-fingers sweep the strings?
What prayers, with such adoring love replete,
As when the seraphs bow with folded wings?
While here, she loved each prophet's life to trace,
And tell of all the trials they had passed;
But there, she sits with Moses, face to face,
In the fair Canaan that was his at last.
And father Abraham will not pass her by:
I thought of Isaac all the night she died,
And asked, as searchingly I turned my eye,
If aught for my pet lamb might be supplied.
O holy Samuel, guide her o'er the strands,
And through the Heavenly Temple, large and fair,
Because the picture of thy clasped hands
In early childhood bowed her soul in prayer.
Show her where Daniel sits,—where David sings,
In loftier measure, more seraphic Psalms,
Then lead her gently to the King of kings,
Who bade His children here to ' Feed His lambs.'
And, mother Mary, I must plead with thee
Sometimes to clasp her to thy loving breast;
Else her fond, yearning heart will long for me,
Though heaven be gained and all its joys possessed.
Not to the Virgin Mary do I kneel;
Not to the holy saint my numbers flow;
But to the mother, whose true heart can feel,
Because it once ensured a kindred woe.
And, Maymie, when thy golden harp is tried,
When strains of love fall sweetly from thy tongue,
Fold thy white wings, and at thy Saviour's side
Let the wild yearnings of thy heart be sung.
Kneel, darling, kneel, and ask for what thou wilt
I know the wish e'en angels may not smother:
Not to be made more free from sin and guilt,
But that thy mission be to guard thy mother.
And if my spirit falter ere this cup
Of bitterness be drained—this large supply,
Reach down thy little hands and hold me up,
Else I must wholly sink, and, helpless, die.
Yes, darling, pray! thy earnest voice can plead
That on thy viewless pinions thou may'st come,
To hover near, in this my greatest need,
And then be near, at last, to guide me home.
Oh! man may climb the topmost round of fame,
And smile in triumph on the rocky steep;
In characters of blood may write his name,
While woman's portion is to watch and weep.
Yet who would barter all the love that glows
With quenchless fervor in a mother's heart,
E'en though that love be bought with anguish-throes,
For all that man can reach or wealth impart?
And even though, like mine, her hopes be crushed,
Her blossom blighted and her day-star fled,
Though the glad voice is here forever hushed,
And the sweet lips that sang all cold and dead,—
'Tis not in hopeless grief her head is bowed,
'Tis not in wild despair she meets His will;
For, mounting past the coffin and the shroud,
Her soul is mother of an angel still.
How saintly was the look her features wore
Before I saw the coffin-lid go down!
That marble brow, I kissed it o'er and o'er,
And left my tears among her tresses brown.
That cold, cold cheek! Those lips, so pale and still,
Would never more unto mine own be pressed;
Those little hands, so quick to do my will,
Were crossed and quiet on a silent breast.
Oh! be ye guarded what ye do or say
Before a mother when her child is dead;
Move with hushed tread beside the pulseless clay,
And in low whispers let your words be said.
Remember of her life it was a part;
Remember it was nourished at her breast;
That she would guard it still from sudden start,
The ringing footfalj, or untimely jest.
We bore her back to the old home she left
With strange reluctance only months before;
How doubly there my poor heart seemed bereft
To miss her smiling welcome at the door!
The constant feet that used to stand and wait
To welcome me were gone: I could not see
Her form come bounding through the wicket-gate,
Or hear her tones of joyful, childish glee.
We moved the sod from off her father's breast,
And laid her down to her serene repose;
Upon his bosom she will sweetly rest,
As withered bud beside the parent rose.
Together may their dust be mingled there,
E'en as their souls are knit beyond the tide!
Together may their deathless spirits share
The boundless glory of the Other Side!