Maternal Grief by William Wordsworth

Departed Child! I could forget thee once

Though at my bosom nursed; this woeful gain

Thy dissolution brings, that in my soul

Is present and perpetually abides

A shadow, never, never to be displaced

By the returning substance, seen or touched,

Seen by mine eyes, or clasped in my embrace.

Absence and death how differ they! and how

Shall I admit that nothing can restore

What one short sigh so easily removed?

Death, life, and sleep, reality and thought,

Assist me, God, their boundaries to know,

O teach me calm submission to thy Will!

The Child she mourned had overstepped the pale

Of Infancy, but still did breathe the air

That sanctifies its confines, and partook

Reflected beams of that celestial light

To all the Little-ones on sinful earth

Not unvouchsafed a light that warmed and cheered

Those several qualities of heart and mind

Which, in her own blest nature, rooted deep,

Daily before the Mother’s watchful eye,

And not hers only, their peculiar charms

Unfolded, beauty, for its present self,

And for its promises to future years,

With not unfrequent rapture fondly hailed.

Have you espied upon a dewy lawn

A pair of Leverets each provoking each

To a continuance of their fearless sport,

Two separate Creatures in their several gifts

Abounding, but so fashioned that, in all

That Nature prompts them to display, their looks,

Their starts of motion and their fits of rest,

An undistinguishable style appears

And character of gladness, as if Spring

Lodged in their innocent bosoms, and the spirit

Of the rejoicing morning were their own?

Such union, in the lovely Girl maintained

And her twin Brother, had the parent seen,

Ere, pouncing like a ravenous bird of prey,

Death in a moment parted them, and left

The Mother, in her turns of anguish, worse

Than desolate; for oft-times from the sound

Of the survivor’s sweetest voice (dear child,

He knew it not) and from his happiest looks,

Did she extract the food of self-reproach,

As one that lived ungrateful for the stay

By Heaven afforded to uphold her maimed

And tottering spirit. And full oft the Boy,

Now first acquainted with distress and grief,

Shrunk from his Mother’s presence, shunned with fear

Her sad approach, and stole away to find,

In his known haunts of joy where’er he might,

A more congenial object. But, as time

Softened her pangs and reconciled the child

To what he saw, he gradually returned,

Like a scared Bird encouraged to renew

A broken intercourse; and, while his eyes

Were yet with pensive fear and gentle awe

Turned upon her who bore him, she would stoop

To imprint a kiss that lacked not power to spread

Faint colour over both their pallid cheeks,

And stilled his tremulous lip. Thus they were calmed

And cheered; and now together breathe fresh air

In open fields; and when the glare of day

Is gone, and twilight to the Mother’s wish

Befriends the observance, readily they join

In walks whose boundary is the lost One’s grave,

Which he with flowers hath planted, finding there

Amusement, where the Mother does not miss

Dear consolation, kneeling on the turf

In prayer, yet blending with that solemn rite

Of pious faith the vanities of grief;

For such, by pitying Angels and by Spirits

Transferred to regions upon which the clouds

Of our weak nature rest not, must be deemed

Those willing tears, and unforbidden sighs,

And all those tokens of a cherished sorrow,

Which, soothed and sweetened by the grace of Heaven

As now it is, seems to her own fond heart,

Immortal as the love that gave it being.

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