Elizabeth Oakes Smith
The Sinless Child Part 1 - Poem by Elizabeth Oakes Smith
Whilom ago, in lowly life,
Young Eva lived and smiled,
A fair-haired girl, of wondrous truth,
And blameless from a child.
Gentle she was, and full of love,
With voice exceeding sweet,
And eyes of dove-like tenderness,
Where joy and sadness meet.
No Father's lip her brow had kissed,
Or breathed for her a prayer;
The widowed breast on which she slept,
Was full of doubt and care;
And oft was Eva's little cheek
Heaved by her mother's sigh—
And oft the widow shrunk in fear
From her sweet baby's eye,
For she would lift her pillowed head
To look within her face,
With something of reproachfulness,
As well as infant grace,—
A trembling lip, an earnest eye,
Half smiling, half in tears,
As she would seek to comprehend
The secret of her fears.
Her ways were gentle while a babe,
With calm and tranquil eye,
That turned instinctively to seek
The blueness of the sky.
A holy smile was on her lip
Whenever sleep was there,
She slept, as sleeps the blossom, hushed
Amid the silent air.
And ere she left with tottling steps
The low-roofed cottage door,
The beetle and the cricket loved
The young child on the floor;
For every insect dwelt secure
Where little Eva played;
And piped for her its blithest song
When she in greenwood strayed;
With wing of gauze and mailèd coat
They gathered round her feet,
Rejoiced, as are all gladsome things,
A truthful soul to greet.
They taught her infant lips to sing
With them a hymn of praise,
The song that in the woods is heard,
Through the long summer days.
And everywhere the child was traced
By snatches of wild song,
That marked her feet along the vale,
Or hill-side, fleet and strong.
She knew the haunts of every bird—
Where bloomed the sheltered flower,
So sheltered, that the searching frost
Might scarcely find its bower.
No loneliness young Eva knew,
Though playmates she had none;
Such sweet companionship was hers,
She could not be alone;
For everything in earth or sky
Caressed the little child,
The joyous bird upon the wing,
The blossom in the wild:
Much dwelt she on the green hill-side,
And under forest tree;
Beside the running, babbling brook,
Where lithe trout sported free—
She saw them dart, like stringed gems,
Where the tangled roots were deep,
And learned that love for evermore
The heart will joyful keep.
She loved all simple flowers that spring
In grove or sun-lit dell,
And of each streak and varied hue
Would pretty meanings tell.
For her a language was impressed
On every leaf that grew,
And lines revealing brighter worlds
That seraph fingers drew.
The opening bud that lightly swung
Upon the dewy air,
Moved in its very sportiveness
Beneath angelic care;
She saw that pearly fingers oped
Each curved and painted leaf,
And where the canker-worm had been
Were looks of angel grief.
Each tiny leaf became a scroll
Inscribed with holy truth,
A lesson that around the heart
Should keep the dew of youth;
Bright missals from angelic throngs
In every by-way left,
How were the earth of glory shorn,
Were it of flowers bereft!
They tremble on the Alpine height;
The fissured rock they press;
The desert wild, with heat and sand,
Shares too, their blessedness,
And wheresoe'er the weary heart
Turns in its dim despair,
The meek-eyed blossom upward looks
Inviting it to prayer.
The widow's cot was rude and low,
The sloping roof moss-grown;
And it would seem its quietude
To every bird were known,
The winding vine quaint tendrils wove
Round roof and oaken door,
And by the flickering light, the leaves
Were painted on the floor.
No noxious reptile ever there
A kindred being sought,
The good and beautiful alone
Delighted in the spot.
The very winds were hushed to peace
Within the quiet dell,
Or murmured through the rustling bough
Like breathings of a shell.
The red-breast sang from sheltering tree,
Gay blossoms clustered round,
And one small brook came dancing by,
With a sweet tinkling sound.
Staining the far-off meadow green
It leaped a rocky dell
And resting by the cottage door,
In liquid music fell.
Upon its breast white lilies slept,
Of pure and wax-like hue,
And brilliant flowers upon the marge
They were of rare and changeless birth,
Nor needed toil nor care;
And many marvelled earth could yield
Aught so exceeding fair.
Young Eva said, all noisome weeds
Would pass from earth away,
When virtue in the human heart
Held its predestined sway;
Exalted thoughts were alway hers,
Some deemed them strange and wild;
And hence in all the hamlets round,
Her name of SINLESS CHILD.
Her mother told how Eva's lips
Had never falsehood known;
No angry word had ever marred
The music of their tone.
And truth spake out in every line
Of her fair tranquil face,
Where Love and Peace, twin-dwelling pair,
Had found a resting-place.
She felt the freedom and the light
The pure in heart may know—
Whose blessed privilege it is
To walk with God below;
Who see a hidden beauty traced,
That others may not see,
Who feel a life within the heart,
And love and mystery.
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