Charles Lamb

(10 February 1775 – 27 December 1834 / London)

My Birthday - Poem by Charles Lamb

A dozen years since in this house what commotion,
What bustle, what stir, and what joyful ado;
Every soul in the family at my devotion,
When into the world I came twelve years ago.


I've been told by my friends (if they do not belie me)
My promise was such as no parent would scorn;
The wise and the aged who prophesied by me
Augured nothing but good of me when I was born.


But vain are the hopes which are formed by a parent,
Fallacious the marks which in infancy shine;
My frail constitution soon made it apparent,
I nourished within me the seeds of decline.


On a sick bed I lay, through the flesh my bones started,
My grief-wasted frame to a skeleton fell;
My physicians foreboding took leave and departed,
And they wished me dead now, who wishëd me well.


Life and soul were kept in by a mother's assistance,
Who struggled with faith, and prevailed 'gainst despair;
Like an angel she watched o'er the lamp of existence,
And never would leave while a glimmer was there.


By her care I'm alive now-but what retribution
Can I for a life twice bestowed thus confer?
Were I to be silent, each year's revolution
Proclaims-each new birthday is owing to her.


The chance-rooted tree that by waysides is planted,
Where no friendly hand will watch o'er its young shoots,
Has less blame if in autumn, when produce is wanted,
Enriched by small culture it put forth small fruits.


But that which with labour in hot-beds is reared,
Secured by nice art from the dews and the rains,
Unsound at the root may with justice be feared,
If it pay not with interest the tiller's hard pains.


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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010



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