Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Mourning Mother

What woe is thine, pale mother?-say
What grief devours thy heart? For aye
Thy looks averted shun the day,
And midnight sees thee watch and pray
With sighing, quivering breath.
The hand of wedded love to clasp-
To feel true friendship's fervent grasp
Is thine. Why, then, with sob and gasp
Still heaves thy heart, as sting of asp
Had struck the pang of death?
'Oh, lost! lost! lost!-the loved, the young
On dark perdition's torrent flung-
With maddened brain and hearts unstrung
O'er deepest gulf of ruin swung,
And I-I cannot save!
O! minstrel King, thy soul-wrung cry
Draws from my heart a deep reply-
My sons, my sons! each burdened sigh
My sons, my sons! breathes to the sky-
My God, thy help I crave!
'My gentle boys-obedient, fond-
How oft around my knees ye conned
The Book which taught all names beyond
His name to bless whose blood atoned
For guilt of fallen man!
How blessed the time when work and play
Alternate shared the hours of day!
Till pillowed cheek to cheek ye lay,
And mother o'er you stooped to pray,
As only mother can.'
But, ah! on clouds of grief and shame,
To this dear home a demon came-
The undying worm, the quenchless flame
Are thine, Intemperance; at the name
The lesser fiends rejoice.
Well hath the dark-souled poet said-
'More sad than wail above the dead
Are words by living sorrow fed:'
Such breathe o'er lost inebriate's head
From mourning mother's voice.
The song, the dance, the wanton's love,
May fail the young desires to move;
But fiercer ordeal they must prove,
Launched on the world, who rise above
The tempter's proffer'd cup.
They fell, for guileless youth what hope?
Urged, bantered, drawn, nay, forced to cope
With senior mates in yard or shop:
Workmen, these human offerings stop
To Moloch offered up.
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