Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
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William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
 
The Mother
By William Wilfred Campbell (1861–1918)
 
   (This poem was suggested by the following passage in Tyler’s Animism: ‘The pathetic German superstition that the dead mother’s coming back in the night to suckle the baby she has left on earth may be known by the hollow pressed down in the bed where she lay.’)

I
IT was April, blossoming Spring,
They buried me when the birds did sing;
 
Earth in clammy wedging earth,
They banked my bed with a black, damp girth.
 
Under the damp and under the mould,        5
I kenned my breasts were clammy and cold.
 
Out from the red beams, slanting and bright,
I kenned my cheeks were sunken and white.
 
I was a dream, and the world was a dream,
And yet I kenned all things that seem.        10
 
I was a dream, and the world was a dream,
But you cannot bury a red sunbeam.
 
For though in the under-grave’s doom-night
I lay all silent and stark and white,
 
Yet over my head I seemed to know        15
The murmurous moods of wind and snow,
 
The snows that wasted, the winds that blew,
The rays that slanted, the clouds that drew
 
The water-ghosts up from lakes below,
And the little flower-souls in earth that grow.        20
 
Under earth, in the grave’s stark night,
I felt the stars and the moon’s pale light.
 
I felt the winds of ocean and land
That whispered the blossoms soft and bland.
 
Though they had buried me dark and low,        25
My soul with the season’s seemed to grow.
 
II
From throes of pain they buried me low,
For death had finished a mother’s woe.
 
But under the sod, in the grave’s dread doom,
I dreamed of my baby in glimmer and gloom.        30
 
I dreamed of my babe, and I kenned that his rest
Was broken in wailings on my dead breast.
 
I dreamed that a rose-leaf hand did cling:
Oh, you cannot bury a mother in spring!
 
When the winds are soft and the blossoms are red        35
She could not sleep in her cold earth-bed.
 
I dreamed of my babe for a day and a night,
And then I rose in my graveclothes white.
 
I rose like a flower from my damp earth-bed
To the world of sorrowing overhead.        40
 
Men would have called me a thing of harm,
But dreams of my babe made me rosy and warm.
 
I felt my breasts swell under my shroud;
No stars shone white, no winds were loud;
 
But I stole me past the graveyard wall,        45
For the voice of my baby seemed to call;
 
And I kenned me a voice, though my lips were dumb:
Hush, baby, hush! for mother is come.
 
I passed the streets to my husband’s home;
The chamber stairs in a dream I clomb;        50
 
I heard the sound of each sleeper’s breath,
Light waves that break on the shores of death.
 
I listened a space at my chamber door,
Then stole like a moon-ray over its floor.
 
My babe was asleep on a stranger arm,        55
‘O baby, my baby, the grave is so warm,
 
‘Though dark and so deep, for mother is there!
O come with me from the pain and care!
 
‘O come with me from the anguish of earth,
Where the bed is banked with a blossoming girth,        60
 
‘Where the pillow is soft and the rest is long,
And mother will croon you a slumber-song—
 
‘A slumber-song that will charm your eyes
To a sleep that never in earth-song lies!
 
‘The loves of earth your being can spare,        65
But never the grave, for mother is there.’
 
I nestled him soft to my throbbing breast,
And stole me back to my long, long rest.
 
And here I lie with him under the stars,
Dead to earth, its peace and its wars;        70
 
Dead to its hates, its hopes, and its harms,
So long as he cradles up soft in my arms.
 
And heaven may open its shimmering doors,
And saints make music on pearly floors,
 
And hell may yawn to its infinite sea,        75
But they never can take my baby from me.
 
For so much a part of my soul he hath grown
That God doth know of it high on His throne.
 
And here I lie with him under the flowers
That sun-winds rock through the billowy hours,        80
 
With the night-airs that steal from the murmuring sea,
Bringing sweet peace to my baby and me.
 
 
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