Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

Mad Mother - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

After moonrise in autumn,
By a wandering water,
When a half-muffled moon,
Dazed in a cloudland
Of wandering grey,
Looked pale from the cloud,
Dim branches uncoloured,
In a line with the moon,
Under, over the moon,
Faintly repeated,
A dark woven lacework
In the wan wave . . .
I heard a low singing,
Thin, shadowy singing,
Unwordable woe,
A wail from the ruin
Of a heart desolated,
A mind out of tune,
As a wail from the wind:
A thin faded form by the pale flying moon,
A face with the youth faded out from the eyes,
From the wan, weary eyes,
Save for her not a soul!
Save for her, and a child,
Whom she held by the hand,
In the shadowy silence;
But she ceaseth her singing,
Low saith to the child -
'Come along, dear, with mammy
Under the water,
The soft flying water,
The sheltering water,
The kind, hiding water;
You are going with me!'
Then they went from the shelving
Low shore together
Into the water:
And the child little knew
Where he was going,
Only clung to the mother,
Deeming her wise.
Was she not ever
Wise for her little one,
Love for her little one?
Yea, Love is wise!
Ah! she was true;
But the woes of the world,
Driven home by the devil,
Had maddened her mind,
And the child little knew,
Knew not the mother
Herself little knew,
Even she, even she
Herself little knew!
So they went in together,
Mother and child,
Awaking the cloudland
In the wan water,
Awaking the moon.
'O mammy, how cold it is!'
'Yea, very cold, dear!
Only 'tis colder
Yonder on earth, love,
Yonder on land!'
A gurgle, a silence,
Low wind in the rushes,
Never note more of song now;
Nor mother, nor child knew;
Ah! none of us know!


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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