Kate Harrington

(1831 - 1917 / Allegheny City, Pennsylvania)

The Saddest Thing

I've done the saddest thing to-day
That ever fell to woman's lot:
I've folded all her clothes away,
And every treasured plaything brought
To lay beside them, one by one;
Her birthday gifts and Christmas toys,
And then to weep, when all was done,
O'er buried hopes and vanished joys.

Her little -dress, in childish haste,
Her own dear hands had laid aside;
Upon the pins that held the waist
I pressed my lips, and softly cried.
Within her gaiters, 'neath my chair,
Two half-worn, crimson stockings lay,
And with a pang of wild despair
I bent and hid them all away.

The purple ribbon that she wore,
The coral trings and pin were there,
And just beneath them, on the floor,
The silken band that tied her hair.
A handkerchief that bore her name
Was folded like a tiny shawl;
And, wrapped within this snowy frame,
Just as she left it, lay her doll.

It bled afresh, this wounded heart,
As if with some new sorrow stung,
As, with a wild and sudden start,
I came to where her cloak was hung.
I caught it, sobbing, to my breast,
As if it held the missing form,
And in low murmurs fondly blest
What once had kept my darling warm.

Her gentle fingers seemed to glide
Across my brow to soothe my pain,
As from the pockets at the side
I drew the gloves that still retain
The impress of those loving hands,
Whose magic touch seemed fraught with power
To cheer me 'mid the scorching sands
Of sorrow, in life's desert hour.

Her little hat no more will take
To its embrace her sunny hair;
I felt that my poor heart must break
To see it lying, empty, there.
The beaming eyes it used to shade
No more with trustful glance will shine;
The grass the early spring hath made
Is growing 'twixt her brow and mine.

Her silk and thimble both were laid
With thread and scissors on the stand;
Her dolly's dress, but partly made,
Seemed waiting for the molding hand.
The drawing of a blighted vine,
Torn, ruthless, from a withered tree,
Meet emblems of her life and mine,
Were the last lines she traced for me.

Oh ! was there ever grief like this ?
Can sorrow take a form more wild
Than sweeps across us when we miss
The presence of a darling child ?
And is there any thought that cheers
Like this, the heart by anguish riven,—
That Time was given to mark our tears,
Eternity to measure Heaven ?

Submitted: Thursday, August 07, 2014

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