Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
My Mother’s Picture
By William Cowper (1731–1800)
 
MY mother, when I learned that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit o’er thy sorrowing son,—
Wretch even then, life’s journey just begun?
I heard the bell tolled on thy burial-day;        5
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away;
And, turning from my nursery-window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
But was it such? It was. Where thou art gone,
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown;        10
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more.
Thy maidens, grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return:
What ardently I wished, I long believed,        15
And, disappointed still, was still deceived,—
By expectation every day beguiled,
Dupe of tomorrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad tomorrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrows spent,        20
I learned at last submission to my lot;
But, though I less deplored thee, ne’er forgot.
Where once we dwelt, our name is heard no more;
Children not thine have trod my nursery floor;
And where the gardener Robin, day by day,        25
Drew me to school along the public way,—
Delighted with my bauble coach, and wrapped
In scarlet mantle warm, and velvet cap,—
Could Time, his flight reversed, restore the hours
When, playing with thy vesture’s tissued flowers,—        30
The violet, the pink, the jessamine,—
I pricked them into paper with a pin,
(And thou wast happier than myself the while—
Wouldst softly speak, and stroke my head, and smile,)
Could those few pleasant days again appear,        35
Might one wish bring them, would I wish them here?
But no! What here we call our life is such,
So little to be loved, and thou so much,
That I should ill requite thee to constrain
Thy unbound spirit into bonds again.        40
 
 
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