Charles Lamb

10 February 1775 – 27 December 1834 / London

Nurse Green

'Your prayers you have said, and you've wished good night:
What cause is there yet keeps my darling awake?
This throb in your bosom proclaims some affright
Disturbs your composure. Can innocence quake?
'Why thus do you cling to my neck, and enfold me,
What fear unimparted your quiet devours?'
'O mother, there's reason-for Susan has told me,
A dead body lies in the room next to ours.'
'I know it; and, but for forgetfulness, dear,
I meant you the coffin this day should have seen,
And read the inscription, and told me the year
And day of the death of your poor old Nurse Green.'
'O not for the wealth of the world would I enter
A chamber wherein a dead body lay hid,
Lest somebody bolder than I am should venture
To go near the coffin and lift up the lid.'
'And should they do so and the coffin uncover,
The corpse underneath it would be no ill sight;
This frame, when its animal functions are over,
Has nothing of horror the living to fright.
To start at the dead is preposterous error,
To shrink from a foe that can never contest;
Shall that which is motionless move thee to terror;
Or thou become restless, 'cause they are at rest?
To think harm of her our good feelings forbid us
By whom when a babe you were dandled and fed;
Who living so many good offices did us,
I ne'er can persuade me would hurt us when dead.
But if no endeavour your terrors can smother,
If vainly against apprehension you strive,
Come, bury your fears in the arms of your mother;
My darling, cling close to me, I am alive.'
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