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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

  • Rookie Kye Medhurst (2/27/2019 5:18:00 PM)

    Can someone explain to me how marxist is seen in this poem with evidence (Report) Reply

    Rookie Mystery Peep (4/2/2019 2:20:00 PM)

    Please do your own homework.

    | Delete this reply
    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Rookie Deborah Cromer (2/2/2019 1:57:00 AM)

    I love that she wrote a poem and made a difference with the attention it made. She did a great thing. Her feelings were her fuel to fire. Bravo on this one! (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Freshman - 668 Points Emmiasky Ojex (6/13/2018 4:23:00 AM)

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

    3 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 12,106 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

    6 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 76,545 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

    10 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Rookie - 9 Points Penky Yumnam (10/4/2013 8:45:00 AM)

    i lije this poem, .. it brings me emotions (Report) Reply

    13 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 18,393 Points Dr John Celes (10/4/2012 7:39:00 PM)

    A long, emotive poem that truly brings out poignantly, the sad plight of children who are generally weak and crying because the world of adults has never ever bothered to really think about their real wants and rights in this earthly life. Also, such a terrible situation continues to prevail even in modern times and children are always the most neglected, uncared for, harmed, exploited and ruined in every scenario of man's activities. So much so, that children cannot expect a decent life-span and stay on this lovely earth created by God and may have to leave prematurely like 'nipped buds or unblossomed flowers, fallen young leaves or fallen fruits that could not stay long enough upon the tree to grow and ripen with seed! the increasing abortions of the unborn and the spate of children being killed and maimed by society are clear evidences that the world is yet most unfit for children and never will if adults remain selfish and just bothered about their own future and not doing much for improving the world for their progeny! a heart rendering versification that ought to change any adult or elderly heart to start working for the welfare of children, the most neglected lot of society! (Report) Reply

    22 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Rookie Ayodeji Oluwaseun (10/4/2012 12:17:00 PM)

    What a nice one, what a breathtaking one. am touched (Report) Reply

    13 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Rookie Kevin Straw (10/4/2012 8:45:00 AM)

    Marvelous - read this and you will understand where the British welfare state comes from, and why the 19th century was such a rich recruiting ground for the political left - Marxism did not come out of an academic study but from the plight of these children. Had capitalism not been so red in tooth and claw during that period, Russia, China etc might have had very different histories. (Report) Reply

    12 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Rookie - 190 Points Karen Sinclair (10/4/2012 2:47:00 AM)

    What strong pictures are thrust infront of me from this piece and they are so contrary. The poor emaciated child who has never seen ought but hardship and the preacher who is adored and feared by his flock. It must of been terribly hard for those who had compassion at the time.
    Its a shame these words still have relevance today
    (Report) Reply

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

New Children Poems

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  2. Children, Kelvin Rush
  3. Adult Children, Qiniso Mogale
  4. THE CHILDREN OF NONTI, Mafika Pascal Gwala
  5. Respect Your Mother, Dawn Lochridge
  6. Three or four children, Ruy Belo
  7. Childern Will Be Children, Emmanuel Oduro
  8. Odia Poem Bhoka (ଭୋକ), Ajit Kumar
  9. Gentrification Of Sesame Street, michael spangenberg
  10. We All Hear A Merry Christmas, Randy McClave

Children Poems

  1. In Reference To Her Children

    I had eight birds hatched in one nest, Four cocks there were, and hens the rest. I nursed them up with pain and care, Nor cost, nor labour did I spare, Till at the last they felt their wing, Mounted the trees, and learned to sing; Chief of the brood then took his flight To regions far and left me quite. My mournful chirps I after send, Till he return, or I do end: Leave not thy nest, thy dam and sire, Fly back and sing amidst this choir. My second bird did take her flight, And with her mate flew out of sight; Southward they both their course did bend, And seasons twain they there did spend, Till after blown by southern gales, They norward steered with filled sails. A prettier bird was no where seen, Along the beach among the treen. I have a third of colour white, On whom I placed no small delight; Coupled with mate loving and true, Hath also bid her dam adieu; And where Aurora first appears, She now hath perched to spend her years. One to the academy flew To chat among that learned crew; Ambition moves still in his breast That he might chant above the rest Striving for more than to do well, That nightingales he might excel. My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone, Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown, And as his wings increase in strength, On higher boughs he'll perch at length. My other three still with me nest, Until they're grown, then as the rest, Or here or there they'll take their flight, As is ordained, so shall they light. If birds could weep, then would my tears Let others know what are my fears Lest this my brood some harm should catch, And be surprised for want of watch, Whilst pecking corn and void of care, They fall un'wares in fowler's snare, Or whilst on trees they sit and sing, Some untoward boy at them do fling, Or whilst allured with bell and glass, The net be spread, and caught, alas. Or lest by lime-twigs they be foiled, Or by some greedy hawks be spoiled. O would my young, ye saw my breast, And knew what thoughts there sadly rest, Great was my pain when I you fed, Long did I keep you soft and warm, And with my wings kept off all harm, My cares are more and fears than ever, My throbs such now as 'fore were never. Alas, my birds, you wisdom want, Of perils you are ignorant; Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight, Sore accidents on you may light. O to your safety have an eye, So happy may you live and die. Meanwhile my days in tunes I'll spend, Till my weak lays with me shall end. In shady woods I'll sit and sing, And things that past to mind I'll bring. Once young and pleasant, as are you, But former toys (no joys) adieu. My age I will not once lament, But sing, my time so near is spent. And from the top bough take my flight Into a country beyond sight, Where old ones instantly grow young, And there with seraphims set song; No seasons cold, nor storms they see; But spring lasts to eternity. When each of you shall in your nest Among your young ones take your rest, In chirping language, oft them tell, You had a dam that loved you well, That did what could be done for young, And nursed you up till you were strong, And 'fore she once would let you fly, She showed you joy and misery; Taught what was good, and what was ill, What would save life, and what would kill. Thus gone, amongst you I may live, And dead, yet speak, and counsel give: Farewell, my birds, farewell adieu, I happy am, if well with you.

  2. Among School Children

    I WALK through the long schoolroom questioning; A kind old nun in a white hood replies; The children learn to cipher and to sing, To study reading-books and histories, To cut and sew, be neat in everything In the best modern way -- the children's eyes In momentary wonder stare upon A sixty-year-old smiling public man. I dream of a Ledaean body, bent Above a sinking fire. a tale that she Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event That changed some childish day to tragedy -- Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent Into a sphere from youthful sympathy, Or else, to alter Plato's parable, Into the yolk and white of the one shell. III And thinking of that fit of grief or rage I look upon one child or t'other there And wonder if she stood so at that age -- For even daughters of the swan can share Something of every paddler's heritage -- And had that colour upon cheek or hair, And thereupon my heart is driven wild: She stands before me as a living child. Her present image floats into the mind -- Did Quattrocento finger fashion it Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind And took a mess of shadows for its meat? And I though never of Ledaean kind Had pretty plumage once -- enough of that, Better to smile on all that smile, and show There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow. What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap Honey of generation had betrayed, And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape As recollection or the drug decide, Would think her Son, did she but see that shape With sixty or more winters on its head, A compensation for the pang of his birth, Or the uncertainty of his setting forth? Plato thought nature but a spume that plays Upon a ghostly paradigm of things; Solider Aristotle played the taws Upon the bottom of a king of kings; World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings What a star sang and careless Muses heard: Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird. VII Both nuns and mothers worship images, But thos the candles light are not as those That animate a mother's reveries, But keep a marble or a bronze repose. And yet they too break hearts -- O presences That passion, piety or affection knows, And that all heavenly glory symbolise -- O self-born mockers of man's enterprise; VIII Labour is blossoming or dancing where The body is not bruised to pleasure soul. Nor beauty born out of its own despair, Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil. O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?

  3. Children

    Come to me, O ye children! For I hear you at your play, And the questions that perplexed me Have vanished quite away. Ye open the eastern windows, That look towards the sun, Where thoughts are singing swallows And the brooks of morning run. In your hearts are the birds and the sunshine, In your thoughts the brooklet's flow, But in mine is the wind of Autumn And the first fall of the snow. Ah! what would the world be to us If the children were no more? We should dread the desert behind us Worse than the dark before. What the leaves are to the forest, With light and air for food, Ere their sweet and tender juices Have been hardened into wood, -- That to the world are children; Through them it feels the glow Of a brighter and sunnier climate Than reaches the trunks below. Come to me, O ye children! And whisper in my ear What the birds and the winds are singing In your sunny atmosphere. For what are all our contrivings, And the wisdom of our books, When compared with your caresses, And the gladness of your looks? Ye are better than all the ballads That ever were sung or said; For ye are living poems, And all the rest are dead.

  4. Two Children

    Two children (small), one Four, one Five, Once saw a bee go in a hive, They'd never seen a bee before! So waited there to see some more. And sure enough along they came A dozen bees (and all the same!) Within the hive they buzzed about; Then, one by one, they all flew out. Said Four: 'Those bees are silly things, But how I wish I had their wings!'

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