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God frightens me. He's strange. I know
And all my usual prayers I have forgot:
I remember now!
I've seen you in trams, in shops, among old
Young eyes, brave lips, broad backs, in all the places
Where women work, and weep, in pain, in
Your hands were gnarled that held him when he died!
Not the fair hands that painters give you, white
And slim. You never had such hands: night And day you laboured, night and day, from
To woman. You were never soft and mild, But strong-limbed, patient, brown-skinned from the sun,
Deep-bosomed, brave-eyed, holy, holy One! I know you now! I seek you, Mary! Spread Your compassionate skirts! I bring to you my dead!
This was my man. I bore him. I did not
Then how he crowned me, but I felt it so. He was my all the world. I loved him best When he was helpless, clamouring at my breast.
Mothers are made like that. You'll understand
Who held your Jesus helpless in your hand
I saw the down come on his cheeks with
And soon I had to reach to hold his head " And stroke his mop of hair. I watched his eyes When women crossed his ways, and I was
For him who had no wisdom. He was young, And loathed my care, and lashed me with youth's tongue.
Splendidly merciless, casual of age, his scorn Was sweet to me of whom his strength was born.
Besides, when he was more than six foot tall
He kept the smile he had when he was
And still no woman had him. I was glad Of that - and then O God! The world ran
Almost before I knew, this noise was war; Death and not women took the son I bore...
You'll know him when you see him: first of all
Because he'll smile that way when he was small;
And then his eyes! They never changed from blue
To duller grey, as other children's do,
But like his childish dreams he kept his
Vivid, and deeply clear, and vision wise. Seek for him, Mary! Bright among the
Of other women's sons he 'll star those hosts Of shining boys! (He always topped his class
At school!) Lean forward, Mary, as they
And touch him! When you see his eyes you'll weep
And think him your own Jesus! Let him sleep
In your deep bosom, Mary, then you'll
His lashes, how they curl, so childishly
You'll weep again, and rock him on your heart
As I did once, that night we had to part.
And then perhaps you'll take him by the hand
And comfort him from fear when he must
Before God's dreadful throne; then, will you
That boy whose bullet made my darling fall, And take him by the other hand, and say "O God, whose Son the hands of men did slay,
These are Thy children who do take away The sins of the world. . . ."
Irene Rutherford McLeod
AN ENGLISH MOTHER 1
EVERY week of every season out of English ports go forth,
White of sail or white of trail, East, or West, or South, or North,
Scattering like a flight of pigeons, half a hundred home-sick ships,
Bearing half a hundred striplings—each with kisses on his lips
Of some silent mother, fearful lest she shows herself too fond,
Giving him to bush or desert as one pays a sacred bond,
Tell us, you who hide your heartbreak, which is sadder, when all 's done, To repine an English mother, or to roam, an English son?
You who shared your babe's first sorrow when his cheek no longer pressed
On the perfect, snow-and-roseleaf beauty of your mother-breast,
In the rigor of his nurture was your woman's mercy mute,
Knowing he was doomed to exile with the savage and the brute?
1 By permission of the author, Robert Underwood Johnson. From Saint-Gaudens and other Poems. Copyright, 1908, by Robert Underwood Johnson.