Poems - Written On The Deaths Of Three Lovely Children - Poem by Jean Ingelow
AGED EIGHT YEARS.
Yellow leaves, how fast they flutter—woodland hollows thickly strewing,
Where the wan October sunbeams scantly in the mid-day win,
While the dim gray clouds are drifting, and in saddened hues imbuing
All without and all within!
All within! but winds of autumn, little Henry, round their dwelling
Did not load your father's spirit with those deep and burdened sighs;—
Only echoed thoughts of sadness, in your mother's bosom swelling,
Fast as tears that dim her eyes.
Life is fraught with many changes, checked with sorrow and mutation,
But no grief it ever lightened such a truth before to know:—
I behold them—father, mother—as they seem to contemplation,
Only three short weeks ago!
Saddened for the morrow's parting—up the stairs at midnight stealing—
As with cautious foot we glided past the children's open door,—
'Come in here,' they said, the lamplight dimpled forms at last revealing,
'Kiss them in their sleep once more.'
You were sleeping, little Henry, with your eyelids scarcely closing,
Two sweet faces near together, with their rounded arms entwined:—
And the rose-bud lips were moving, as if stirred in their reposing
By the movements of the mind!
And your mother smoothed the pillow, and her sleeping treasures numbered,
Whispering fondly—'He is dreaming'—as you turned upon your bed—
And your father stooped to kiss you, happy dreamer, as you slumbered,
With his hand upon your head!
Did he know the true deep meaning of his blessing? No! he never
Heard afar the summons uttered—'Come up hither'—Never knew
How the awful Angel faces kept his sleeping boy for ever,
And for ever in their view.
Awful Faces, unimpassioned, silent Presences were by us,
Shrouding wings—majestic beings—hidden by this earthly veil—
Such as we have called on, saying, 'Praise the Lord, O Ananias,
Azarias and Misael!'
But we saw not, and who knoweth, what the missioned Spirits taught him,
To that one small bed drawn nearer, when we left him to their will?
While he slumbered, who can answer for what dreams they may have brought
When at midnight all was still?
Father! Mother! must you leave him on his bed, but not to slumber?
Are the small hands meekly folded on his breast, but not to pray?
When you count your children over, must you tell a different number,
Since that happier yesterday?
Father! Mother! weep if need be, since this is a 'time' for weeping,
Comfort comes not for the calling, grief is never argued down—
Coldly sounds the admonition, 'Why lament? in better keeping
Rests the child than in your own.'
'Truth indeed! but, oh! compassion! Have you sought to scan my sorrow?'
(Mother, you shall meekly ponder, list'ning to that common tale)
'Does your heart repeat its echo, or by fellow-feeling borrow
Even a tone that might avail?
'Might avail to steal it from me, by its deep heart-warm affection?
Might perceive by strength of loving how the fond words to combine?
Surely no! I will be silent, in your soul is no reflection
Of the care that burdens mine!'
When the winter twilight gathers, Father, and your thoughts shall wander,
Sitting lonely you shall blend him with your listless reveries,
Half forgetful what division holds the form whereon you ponder
From its place upon your knees—
With a start of recollection, with a half-reproachful wonder,
Of itself the heart shall question, 'Art Thou then no longer here?
Is it so, my little Henry? Are we set so far asunder
Who were wont to be so near?'
While the fire-light dimly flickers, and the lengthened shades are meeting,
To itself the heart shall answer, 'He shall come to me no more:
I shall never hear his footsteps nor the child's sweet voice entreating
For admission at my door.'
But upon your fair, fair forehead, no regrets nor griefs are dwelling,
Neither sorrow nor disquiet do the peaceful features know;
Nor that look, whose wistful beauty seemed their sad hearts to be telling,
'Daylight breaketh, let me go!'
Daylight breaketh, little Henry; in its beams your soul awaketh—
What though night should close around us, dim and dreary to the view—
Though our souls should walk in darkness, far away that morning breaketh
Into endless day for you!
AGED NINE YEARS.
They have left you, little Henry, but they have not left you lonely—
Brothers' hearts so knit together could not, might not separate dwell.
Fain to seek you in the mansions far away—One lingered only
To bid those behind farewell!
Gentle Boy!—His childlike nature in most guileless form was moulded,
And it may be that his spirit woke in glory unaware,
Since so calmly he resigned it, with his hands still meekly folded,
Having said his evening prayer.
Or—if conscious of that summons—'Speak, O Lord, Thy servant heareth'—
As one said, whose name they gave him, might his willing answer be,
'Here am I'—like him replying—'At Thy gates my soul appeareth,
For behold Thou calledst me!'
A deep silence—utter silence, on his earthly home descendeth:—
Reading, playing, sleeping, waking—he is gone, and few remain!
'O the loss!'—they utter, weeping—every voice its echo lendeth—
'O the loss!'—But, O the gain!
On that tranquil shore his spirit was vouchsafed an early landing,
Lest the toils of crime should stain it, or the thrall of guilt control—
Lest that 'wickedness should alter the yet simple understanding,
Or deceit beguile his soul!'
'Lay not up on earth thy treasure'—they have read that sentence duly,
Moth and rust shall fret thy riches—earthly good hath swift decay—
'Even so,' each heart replieth—'As for me, my riches truly
Make them wings and flee away!'
'O my riches!—O my children!—dearest part of life and being,
Treasures looked to for the solace of this life's declining years,—
Were our voices cold to hearing—or our faces cold to seeing,
That ye left us to our tears?'
'We inherit conscious silence, ceasing of some merry laughter,
And the hush of two sweet voices—(healing sounds for spirits bruised!)
Of the tread of joyous footsteps in the pathway following after,
Of two names no longer used!'
Question for them, little Sister, in your sweet and childish fashion—
Search and seek them, Baby Brother, with your calm and asking eyes—
Dimpled lips that fail to utter fond appeal or sad compassion,
Mild regret or dim surprise!
There are two tall trees above you, by the high east window growing,
Underneath them, slumber sweetly, lapt in silence deep, serene;
Save, when pealing in the distance, organ notes towards you flowing
Echo—with a pause between!
And that pause?—a voice shall fill it—tones that blessed you daily,
Well beloved, but not sufficing, Sleepers, to awake you now,
Though so near he stand, that shadows from your trees may tremble lightly
On his book and on his brow!
Sleep then ever! Neither singing of sweet birds shall break your slumber,
Neither fall of dew, nor sunshine, dance of leaves, nor drift of snow,
Charm those dropt lids more to open, nor the tranquil bosoms cumber
With one care for things below!
It is something, the assurance, that you ne'er shall feel like sorrow,
Weep no past and dread no future—know not sighing, feel not pain—
Nor a day that looketh forward to a mournfuller to-morrow—
'Clouds returning after rain!'
No, far off, the daylight breaketh, in its beams each soul awaketh:
'What though clouds,' they sigh, 'be gathered dark and stormy to the
Though the light our eyes forsaketh, fresh and sweet behold it breaketh
Into endless day for you!'
KATIE, AGED FIVE YEARS.
(ASLEEP IN THE DAYTIME.)
All rough winds are hushed and silent, golden light the meadow steepeth,
And the last October roses daily wax more pale and fair;
They have laid a gathered blossom on the breast of one who sleepeth
With a sunbeam on her hair.
Calm, and draped in snowy raiment she lies still, as one that dreameth,
And a grave sweet smile hath parted dimpled lips that may not speak;
Slanting down that narrow sunbeam like a ray of glory gleameth
On the sainted brow and cheek.
There is silence! They who watch her, speak no word of grief or wailing,
In a strange unwonted calmness they gaze on and cannot cease,
Though the pulse of life beat faintly, thought shrink back, and hope be
They, like Aaron, 'hold their peace.'
While they gaze on her, the deep bell with its long slow pauses soundeth;
Long they hearken—father—mother—love has nothing more to say:
Beating time to feet of Angels leading her where love aboundeth
Tolls the heavy bell this day.
Still in silence to its tolling they count over all her meetness
To lie near their hearts and soothe them in all sorrows and all fears;
Her short life lies spread before them, but they cannot tell her
Easily as tell her years.
Only daughter—Ah! how fondly Thought around that lost name lingers,
Oft when lone your mother sitteth, she shall weep and droop her head,
She shall mourn her baby-sempstress, with those imitative fingers,
Drawing out her aimless thread.
In your father's Future cometh many a sad uncheered to-morrow,
But in sleep shall three fair faces heavenly-calm towards him lean—
Like a threefold cord shall draw him through the weariness of sorrow,
Nearer to the things unseen.
With the closing of your eyelids close the dreams of expectation,
And so ends the fairest chapter in the records of their way:
Therefore—O thou God most holy—God of rest and consolation,
Be Thou near to them this day!
Be Thou near, when they shall nightly, by the bed of infant brothers,
Hear their soft and gentle breathing, and shall bless them on their
And shall think how coldly falleth the white moonlight on the others,
In their bed beneath the trees.
Be Thou near, when they, they only, bear those faces in remembrance,
And the number of their children strangers ask them with a smile;
And when other childlike faces touch them by the strong resemblance
To those turned to them erewhile.
Be Thou near, each chastened Spirit for its course and conflict nerving,
Let Thy voice say, 'Father—mother—lo! thy treasures live above!
Now be strong, be strong, no longer cumbered over much with serving
At the shrine of human love.'
Let them sleep! In course of ages e'en the Holy House shall crumble,
And the broad and stately steeple one day bend to its decline,
And high arches, ancient arches bowed and decked in clothing humble,
Creeping moss shall round them twine.
Ancient arches, old and hoary, sunny beams shall glimmer through them,
And invest them with a beauty we would fain they should not share,
And the moonlight slanting down them, the white moonlight shall imbue them
With a sadness dim and fair.
Then the soft green moss shall wrap you, and the world shall all forget
Life, and stir, and toil, and tumult unawares shall pass you by;
Generations come and vanish: but it shall not grieve nor fret you,
That they sin, or that they sigh.
And the world, grown old in sinning, shall deny her first beginning,
And think scorn of words which whisper how that all must pass away;
Time's arrest and intermission shall account a vain tradition,
And a dream, the reckoning day!
Till His blast, a blast of terror, shall awake in shame and sadness
Faithless millions to a vision of the failing earth and skies,
And more sweet than song of Angels, in their shout of joy and gladness,
Call the dead in Christ to rise!
Then, by One Man's intercession, standing clear from their transgression,
Father—mother—you shall meet them fairer than they were before,
And have joy with the Redeem褬 joy ear hath not heard heart dream褬
Ay for ever—evermore!
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