Alice Cary

(1820-1871 / USA)

Little Cyrus


Emily Mayfield all the day
Sits and rocks her cradle alone,
And never a neighbor comes to say
How pretty little Cyrus has grown.

Meekly Emily's head is hung,
Many a sigh from her bosom breaks,
And ne'er such pitiful tune was sung
As that her lowly lullaby makes.

Near where the village schoolhouse stands,
On the grass by the mossy spring,
Merry children are linking hands,
But little Cyrus is not in the ring.

'They might make room for me, if they tried,'
He thinks as he listens to call and shout,
And his eyes so pretty are open wide,
Wondering why they have left him out.

Nightly hurrying home they go,
Each, of the praise he has had, to boast
But never an honor can Cyrus show,
And yet he studies his book the most.

Little Cyrus is out in the hay, -
Not where the clover is sweet and red,
With mates of his tender years at play,
But where the stubble is sharp, instead,

And every flowerless shrub and tree
That takes the twinkling noontide heat,
Is dry and dusty as it can be;
There with his tired, sunburnt feet

Dragging wearily, Cyrus goes,
Trying to sing as the others do,
But never the stoutest hand that mows
Says, 'It is work too hard for you,'

'Little Cyrus, your hands so small
Bleed with straining to keep your place,
And the look that says I must bear it all
Is sadder than tears in your childish face:'

'So give me your knotty swath to mow,
And rest awhile on the shady sward,
Else your body will crooked grow,
Little Cyrus, from working hard.'

If he could listen to words like that,
The stubble would not be half so rough
To his naked feet, and his ragged hat
Would shield him from sunshine well enough.

But ne'er a moment the mowers check
Song or whistle, to think of him,
With blisters burning over his neck,
Under his straw hat's ragged brim.

So, stooping over the field he goes,
With none to pity if he complain,
And so the crook in his body grows,
And he never can stand up straight again.

The cattle lie down in the lane so still, -
The scythes in the apple-tree shine bright,
And Cyrus sits on the ashen sill
Watching the motes, in the streaks of light,

Quietly slanting out of the sky,
Over the hill to the porch so low,
Wondering if in the world on high
There will be any briery fields to mow.

Emily Mayfield, pale and weak,
Steals to his side in the light so dim,
And the single rose in his swarthy cheek
Grows double, the while she says to him, -

Little Cyrus, 't is many a day
Since one with just your own sweet eyes,
And a voice as rich as a bird's in May,
(Gently she kisses the boy and sighs,)

Here on the porch when the work was done,
Sat with a young girl, (not like me,)
Her heart was light as the wool she spun,
And her laughter merry as it could be;

Her hair was silken, he used to say,
When they sat on the porch-side, 'woful when,'
And I know the clover you mowed to-day
Was not more red than her cheeks were then.

He told her many a story wild,
Like this, perhaps, which I tell to you,
And she was a woman less than child,
And thought whatever he said was true.

From home and kindred, - ah me, ah me!
With only her faith in his love, she fled,
'T was all like a dreaming, and when she could see
She owned she was sinful and prayed to be dead.

But always, however long she may live,
Desolate, desolate, she shall repine,
And so with no love to receive or to give,
Her face is as sad and as wrinkled as mine.

Little Cyrus, trembling, lays
His head on his mother's knee to cry,
And kissing his sunburnt cheek, she says,
'Hush, my darling, it was not I.'

Submitted: Friday, April 11, 2014

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