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The Cry Of The Children - Poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers---
And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows;
The young birds are chirping in the nest;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows;
The young flowers are blowing toward the west---
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
They are weeping bitterly!---
They are weeping in the playtime of the others
In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
Why their tears are falling so?---
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
Which is lost in Long Ago---
The old tree is leafless in the forest---
The old year is ending in the frost---
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest---
The old hope is hardest to be lost:
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
In our happy Fatherland?

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their looks are sad to see,
For the man's grief abhorrent, draws and presses
Down the cheeks of infancy---
'Your old earth,' they say, 'is very dreary;'
'Our young feet,' they say, 'are very weak!
Few paces have we taken, yet are wearyÑ
Our grave-rest is very far to seek.
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children,
For the outside earth is cold,---
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,
And the graves are for the old.

'True,' say the young children, 'it may happen
That we die before our time.
Little Alice died last year---the grave is shapen
Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her---
Was no room for any work in the close clay:
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her
Crying, 'Get up, little Alice! it is day.'
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,
With your ear down, little Alice never cries!---
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
For the smile has time for growing in her eyes---
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in
The shroud, by the kirk-chime!
It is good when it happens,' say the children,
'That we die before our time.'

Alas, alas, the children! they are seeking
Death in life, as best to have!
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city---
Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do---
Pluck your handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty---
Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through!
But they answer, 'Are your cowslips of the meadows
Like our weeds anear the mine?
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,
From your pleasures fair and fine!

'For oh,' say the children, 'we are weary,
And we cannot run or leap---
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping---
We fall upon our faces, trying to go;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
Through the coal-dark, underground---
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
In the factories, round and round.

'For, all day, the wheels are droning, turning,---
Their wind comes in our faces,---
Till our hearts turn,---our head, with pulses burning,
And the walls turn in their places---
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling---
Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall---
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling---
All are turning, all the day, and we with all.---
And, all day, the iron wheels are droning;
And sometimes we could pray,
'O ye wheels,' (breaking out in a mad moaning)
'Stop! be silent for to-day!' '

Ay! be silent! Let them hear each other breathing
For a moment, mouth to mouth---
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing
Of their tender human youth!
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
Is not all the life God fashions or reveals---
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
That they live in you, os under you, O wheels!---
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,
Grinding life down from its mark;
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,
Spin on blindly in the dark.

Now, tell the poor young children, O my brothers,
To look up to Him and pray---
So the blessed One, who blesseth all the others,
Will bless them another day.
They answer, 'Who is God that He should hear us,
White the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred?
When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us
Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word!
And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)
Strangers speaking at the door:
Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him,
Hears our weeping any more?

'Two words, indeed, of praying we remember,
And at midnight's hour of harm,---
'Our Father,' looking upward in the chamber,
We say softly for a charm.
We know no other words except 'Our Father,'
And we think that, in some pause of angels' song,
God may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,
And hold both within His right hand which is strong.
'Our Father!' If He heard us, He would surely
(For they call Him good and mild)
Answer, smiling down the steep world very purely,
'Come and rest with me, my child.'

'But no!' say the children, weeping faster,
'He is speechless as a stone;
And they tell us, of His image is the master
Who commands us to work on.
Go to!' say the children,---'Up in Heaven,
Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find.
Do not mock us; grief has made us unbelieving---
We look up for God, but tears have made us blind.'
Do you hear the children weeping and disproving,
O my brothers, what ye preach?
For God's possible is taught by His world's loving---
And the children doubt of each.

And well may the children weep before you;
They are weary ere they run;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
Which is brighter than the sun:
They know the grief of man, but not the wisdom;
They sink in man's despair, without its calm---
Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom,---
Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm,---
Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly
No dear remembrance keep,---
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly:
Let them weep! let them weep!

They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,
And their look is dread to see,
For they mind you of their angels in their places,
With eyes meant for Deity;---
'How long,' they say, 'how long, O cruel nation,
Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart,
Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
And tread onward to your throne amid the mart?
Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants,
And your purple shows yo}r path;
But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence
Than the strong man in his wrath!'

Comments about The Cry Of The Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  • Freshman - 627 Points Emmiasky Ojex (6/13/2018 4:23:00 AM)

    Wow, this is such a painful reflection of the cries of children (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 12,085 Points Frank Avon (10/4/2014 11:50:00 PM)

    Hardly the sort of poetry Elizabeth Barrett is known for, but much more important. A social protest of an earlier age, powerful in its repetitive detail. Such protests, thank God, eventually proved effective. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 75,299 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (10/4/2014 4:17:00 AM)

    Child rights are to be given proper attention which the present world gives importance. The poem having such feeling the deprived children and their plight and crying wonderfully created in such a great poem and by the great poetess. (Report) Reply

Read all 15 comments »

Poems About Children

  1. 1. The Cry Of The Children , Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  2. 2. Children , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. 3. In Reference To Her Children , Anne Bradstreet
  4. 4. Children Of Light , Robert Lowell
  5. 5. Two Children , Spike Milligan
  6. 6. Among School Children , William Butler Yeats
  7. 7. Listen Children , Lucille Clifton
  8. 8. Good And Bad Children , Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. 9. Night-Night (Children) , C.J. Heck
  10. 10. To A Lady And Her Children , Phillis Wheatley
  11. 11. The Money Tree (Children) , C.J. Heck
  12. 12. Before The Birth Of One Of Her Children , Anne Bradstreet
  13. 13. God Has Pity On Kindergarten Children , Yehuda Amichai
  14. 14. Song To Be Sung By The Father Of Infant .. , Ogden Nash
  15. 15. Against Writing About Children , Erin Belieu
  16. 16. Christmas Is Really For The Children , Steve Turner
  17. 17. Squatter's Children , Elizabeth Bishop
  18. 18. Angel In My Pocket (Children) , C.J. Heck
  19. 19. Dancing Fairies (Children) , C.J. Heck
  20. 20. Reuben's Children , Dorothy Parker
  21. 21. A Child’s Masterpiece (Children) , C.J. Heck
  22. 22. Among Children , Philip Levine
  23. 23. Warning To Children , Robert Graves
  24. 24. The Children Of The Night , Edwin Arlington Robinson
  25. 25. I Love Bugs (Children) , C.J. Heck
  26. 26. Daddy’s Boots (Children) , C.J. Heck
  27. 27. To My Children , Sarojini Naidu
  28. 28. Dear Mommy Up In Heaven (Children) , C.J. Heck
  29. 29. Growing Things (Children) , C.J. Heck
  30. 30. Children Selecting Books In A Library , Randall Jarrell
  31. 31. To His Two Children , Li Po
  32. 32. I'M Not Talking (Children) , C.J. Heck
  33. 33. From The Short Story Shadow-Children , Louisa May Alcott
  34. 34. Children Of The Rainbow (Children) , C.J. Heck
  35. 35. Ode To Being Five (Children) , C.J. Heck
  36. 36. Windows In Heaven (Children) , C.J. Heck
  37. 37. My Shadow (Children) , C.J. Heck
  38. 38. The Child Within (Children) , C.J. Heck
  39. 39. Children Imitating Cormorants , Kobayashi Issa
  40. 40. Whole Duty Of Children , Robert Louis Stevenson
  41. 41. Little Boys And Jelly Beans (Children) , C.J. Heck
  42. 42. As Children Bid The Guest "Good Night" , Emily Dickinson
  43. 43. All By Myself (Cj & Rusty For Children) , C.J. Heck
  44. 44. A Little Riddle (Children) , C.J. Heck
  45. 45. Baby's First Christmas (Children) , C.J. Heck
  46. 46. Mud Pies (Children) , C.J. Heck
  47. 47. Pockets (Children) , C.J. Heck
  48. 48. Monkey Me (Children) , C.J. Heck
  49. 49. Pedal Pushin' (Children) , C.J. Heck
  50. 50. Monster In A Box (Children) , C.J. Heck
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