Caroline Bowles Southey

1786-1854

 

To A Dying Infant

by Caroline Bowles Southey

Sleep, little baby, sleep;
Not in thy cradle bed,
Not on thy mother's breast,
Henceforth shall be thy rest,
But with the quiet dead.

Yes, with the quiet dead,
Baby, thy rest shall be.
O, many a weary wight,
Weary of life and light,
Would fain lie down with thee!

Flee, little tender nursling,
Flee to thy grassy nest;
There the first flowers shall blow,
The first pure flakes of snow
Shall fall upon thy breast.

Peace! peace! the little bosom
Labors with shortening breath.
Peace! peace! that tremulous sigh
Speaks his departure nigh;
Those are the damps of death.

I've seen thee in thy beauty,
A thing all health and glee;
But never, then, wert thou
So beautiful as now,
Baby, thou seemest to me;

Thine upturned eyes glazed over,
Like harebells wet with dew,
Already veiled and hid
By the convulsed lid,
Their pupils darkly blue;

Thy little mouth half open,
The soft lip quivering,
As if, like summer air
Ruffling the rose leaves, there
Thy soul were fluttering.

Mount up, immortal essence!
Young spirit, hence. depart!
And is this death? Dread thing!
If such thy visiting,
How beautiful thou art.

O, I could gaze forever
Upon that waxen face,
So passionless! so pure!
The little shrine was sure
An angel's dwelling-place.

Thou weepest, childless mother!
Ay, weep; 'twill ease thine heart
He was thy first-born son --
Thy first, thine only one;
'Tis hard from him to part.

'Tis hard to lay thy darling
Deep in the damp, cold earth;
His empty crib to see,
His silent nursery,
Late singing with his mirth;

To meet again, in slumber,
His small mouth's rosy kiss,
Then -- wakened with a start
By thine own throbbing heart --
His twining arms to miss;

And then to lie and weep,
And think, the livelong night,
(Feeling thine own distress
With accurate greediness,)
Of every past delight;

Of all his winning ways,
His pretty, playful smiles,
His joy at sight of thee,
His tricks, his mimicry,
And all his little wiles.

O, these are recollections
Round mothers' hearts that cling!
That mingle with the tears
And smiles of after years,
With oft awakening.

But thou wilt then, fond mother,
In after years, look back
(Time brings such wondrous easing)
With sadness and unpleasing,
Even on this gloomy track.

Thou'lt say,My first-born blessing,
It almost broke my heart,
When thou wert forced to go;
And yet, for thee. I know
Twas better to depart,

God took thee in his mercy,
A lamb untasked, untried;
He fought the fight for thee,
He won the victory,
And thou art sanctified.

I look around, and see
The evil ways of men,
And O, beloved child!
I'm more than reconciled
To thy departure then.

The little arms that clasped me,
The innocent lips that prest,
Would they have been as pure
Till now, as when of yore
I lulled thee on my breast?

Now, like a dew-drop shrined
Within a crystal stone,
Thou'rt safe in heaven, my dove!
Safe with the Source of love,
The everlasting One!

And when the hour arrives
From flesh that sets me free,
Thy spirit may await,
The first at heaven's gate,
To meet and welcome me.

Source:

The Floral Wreath Of Autumn Flowers
Copyright 1850
Detroit: Kerr, Doughty and Lapham
 
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