Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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MATERNAL GRIEF

          DEPARTED Child! I could forget thee once
          Though at my bosom nursed; this woeful gain
          Thy dissolution brings, that in my soul
          Is present and perpetually abides
          A shadow, never, never to be displaced
          By the returning substance, seen or touched,
          Seen by mine eyes, or clasped in my embrace.
          Absence and death how differ they! and how
          Shall I admit that nothing can restore
          What one short sigh so easily removed?--                    10
          Death, life, and sleep, reality and thought,
          Assist me, God, their boundaries to know,
          O teach me calm submission to thy Will!
            The Child she mourned had overstepped the pale
          Of Infancy, but still did breathe the air
          That sanctifies its confines, and partook
          Reflected beams of that celestial light
          To all the Little-ones on sinful earth
          Not unvouchsafed--a light that warmed and cheered
          Those several qualities of heart and mind                   20
          Which, in her own blest nature, rooted deep,
          Daily before the Mother's watchful eye,
          And not hers only, their peculiar charms
          Unfolded,--beauty, for its present self,
          And for its promises to future years,
          With not unfrequent rapture fondly hailed.
            Have you espied upon a dewy lawn
          A pair of Leverets each provoking each
          To a continuance of their fearless sport,
          Two separate Creatures in their several gifts               30
          Abounding, but so fashioned that, in all
          That Nature prompts them to display, their looks,
          Their starts of motion and their fits of rest,
          An undistinguishable style appears
          And character of gladness, as if Spring
          Lodged in their innocent bosoms, and the spirit
          Of the rejoicing morning were their own?
            Such union, in the lovely Girl maintained
          And her twin Brother, had the parent seen,
          Ere, pouncing like a ravenous bird of prey,                 40
          Death in a moment parted them, and left
          The Mother, in her turns of anguish, worse
          Than desolate; for oft-times from the sound
          Of the survivor's sweetest voice (dear child,
          He knew it not) and from his happiest looks,
          Did she extract the food of self-reproach,
          As one that lived ungrateful for the stay
          By Heaven afforded to uphold her maimed
          And tottering spirit. And full oft the Boy,
          Now first acquainted with distress and grief,               50
          Shrunk from his Mother's presence, shunned with fear
          Her sad approach, and stole away to find,
          In his known haunts of joy where'er he might,
          A more congenial object. But, as time
          Softened her pangs and reconciled the child
          To what he saw, he gradually returned,
          Like a scared Bird encouraged to renew
          A broken intercourse; and, while his eyes
          Were yet with pensive fear and gentle awe
          Turned upon her who bore him, she would stoop               60
          To imprint a kiss that lacked not power to spread
          Faint colour over both their pallid cheeks,
          And stilled his tremulous lip. Thus they were calmed
          And cheered; and now together breathe fresh air
          In open fields; and when the glare of day
          Is gone, and twilight to the Mother's wish
          Befriends the observance, readily they join
          In walks whose boundary is the lost One's grave,
          Which he with flowers hath planted, finding there
          Amusement, where the Mother does not miss                   70
          Dear consolation, kneeling on the turf
          In prayer, yet blending with that solemn rite
          Of pious faith the vanities of grief;
          For such, by pitying Angels and by Spirits
          Transferred to regions upon which the clouds
          Of our weak nature rest not, must be deemed
          Those willing tears, and unforbidden sighs,
          And all those tokens of a cherished sorrow,
          Which, soothed and sweetened by the grace of Heaven
          As now it is, seems to her own fond heart,                  80
          Immortal as the love that gave it being.
                                                              1810.


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