Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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TO ------

UPON THE BIRTH OF HER FIRST-BORN CHILD, MARCH 1833

                "Tum porro puer, ut saevis projectus ab undis
                 Navita, nudus humi jacet, etc."--LUCRETIUS.

          LIKE a shipwrecked Sailor tost
          By rough waves on a perilous coast,
          Lies the Babe, in helplessness
          And in tenderest nakedness,
          Flung by labouring nature forth
          Upon the mercies of the earth.
          Can its eyes beseech?--no more
          Than the hands are free to implore:
          Voice but serves for one brief cry;
          Plaint was it? or prophecy                                  10
          Of sorrow that will surely come?
          Omen of man's grievous doom!
            But, O Mother! by the close
          Duly granted to thy throes;
          By the silent thanks, now tending
          Incense-like to Heaven, descending
          Now to mingle and to move
          With the gush of earthly love,
          As a debt to that frail Creature,
          Instrument of struggling Nature                             20
          For the blissful calm, the peace
          Known but to this 'one' release--
          Can the pitying spirit doubt
          That for human-kind springs out
          From the penalty a sense
          Of more than mortal recompence?
            As a floating summer cloud,
          Though of gorgeous drapery proud,
          To the sun-burnt traveller,
          Or the stooping labourer,                                   30
          Oft-times makes its bounty known
          By its shadow round him thrown;
          So, by chequerings of sad cheer,
          Heavenly Guardians, brooding near,
          Of their presence tell--too bright
          Haply for corporeal sight!
          Ministers of grace divine
          Feelingly their brows incline
          O'er this seeming Castaway
          Breathing, in the light of day,                             40
          Something like the faintest breath
          That has power to baffle death--
          Beautiful, while very weakness
          Captivates like passive meekness.
            And, sweet Mother! under warrant
          Of the universal Parent,
          Who repays in season due
          Them who have, like thee, been true
          To the filial chain let down
          From his everlasting throne,                                50
          Angels hovering round thy couch,
          With their softest whispers vouch,
          That--whatever griefs may fret,
          Cares entangle, sins beset,
          This thy First-born, and with tears
          Stain her cheek in future years--
          Heavenly succour, not denied
          To the babe, whate'er betide,
          Will to the woman be supplied!
            Mother! blest be thy calm ease;                           60
          Blest the starry promises,--
          And the firmament benign
          Hallowed be it, where they shine!
          Yes, for them whose souls have scope
          Ample for a winged hope,
          And can earthward bend an ear
          For needful listening, pledge is here,
          That, if thy new-born Charge shall tread
          In thy footsteps, and be led
          By that other Guide, whose light                            70
          Of manly virtues, mildly bright,
          Gave him first the wished-for part
          In thy gentle virgin heart;
          Then, amid the storms of life
          Presignified by that dread strife
          Whence ye have escaped together,
          She may look for serene weather;
          In all trials sure to find
          Comfort for a faithful mind;
          Kindlier issues, holier rest,                               80
          Than even now await her prest,
          Conscious Nursling, to thy breast!


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