Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

Night Phases Of Drunkenness


The midnight hour hath chimed,
The night is wild and cold;
I see a trembling hand
Yon cottage door unfold.
A pale and furrowed face
Peers forth into the storm;
And o'er the threshold leans
A bent and tottering form.
Her white hair, damp with tears,
Clings to her wasted cheek;
With failing eyes she scans
The street, her son to seek.
His staggering form she sees,
His reeling steps she hears-
Break, widowed heart! How vain
Thy pleading words and tears!

A dark, dismantled room-
A wailing infant's cry-
A little weeping maid
Sings mournful lullaby-
Two baby brothers, pale
With hunger, cold, and fear,
Lie at her feet; while she
Keeps sobbing, 'Mother, dear!
'Oh! shall I never see
Thy sweet and mournful face?
Oh! take thy baby home
Unto the blessed place.
No milk, no food have I,
For her and brothers dear;
Father beats us when we cry,
And leaves us nightly here.'

A workman sought his home,
When evening bells had rung-
Dark thoughts o'er brow and heart
Their sullen shadows flung.
A little ragged boy,
With hunger in his eyes,
Cries, 'Mother lies in bed
And minds not baby's cries.'
No light, nor food, nor fire
Is in the wretched room-
To where the inebriate lies
He rushes in the gloom.
He beats the senseless form-
He drags her from the bed
Where, crushed and livid, lies
Her smother'd infant-dead!

A slender, pallid boy,
With hectic on his cheek,
Moved by his mother's tears,
His father goes to seek.
The midnight moon looks down
Upon the wintry street,
And sees the shrinking youth
His ruffian parent meet.
With drunken fury blazed
His eyes-with curse and blow
He dashed the feeble boy
Upon the stones below.
His bleeding form they raised-
Sustained his dying head-
But ere the mother's arms
Had clasped him, life was fled!
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