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TO THE SAME, ON HER FIRST BIRTHDAY.
'Tis right the joyous epoch of thy birth
Should be a sunshine holyday on earth ;
All Nature keeps it : now the boisterous North
Holds his chill breath; the birds are peeping forth,
Sweet little things, but yet not half so sweet
As thou, sweet flow’ret of a year complete !
I would, my babe, that prayer of force divine,
Or dedicated task, or vow of mine
To be performed, or suffered, as of old
Sad saints endured, or errant champion bold
Achieved on Syrian plains or Alpine passes cold-
That any work more meet for solemn time,
More grave and arduous than the easy rhyme
Which now, my love, 'tis well enough I can
Make faster far than many a wiser man-
Could gain for thee the moment of a bliss,
Were it no longer than a raptured kiss,
Or spare thy little life the pelting pain
That soon is past, but comes too soon again.
But vain the vow—the very wish is vain.
The caverned saint's long life of martyrdom,
The knees that leave their dints on convent stone,
The breath that is but one perpetual groan,
Are useless all one pause of peace to win :
No pain of man can expiate a sin.
But wherefore dream of what I fain would do,
Or prate of pain beneath a sky so blue ?
'Tis Spring with Nature—tender Spring with thee,
But the sere Autumn follows hard on me.
It may be, pretty babe, ere thou canst know
The man that loves thee, and be-rhymes thee so,
I may be gone, and never see thee more ;
But yet I see thee on the farther shore,
Clad in thine infant robes of innocence,
Pure even as now, baptised from all offence,
A spirit mature—yet with no more to fear
Than the sweet infant of a single year
TO MARGARET, ON HER FIRST BIRTHDAY.
ONE year is past, with change and sorrow fraught,
Since first the little Margaret drew her breath,
And yet the fatal names of Sin and Death,
Her sad inheritance, she knoweth not.
That lore, by earth inevitably taught,
In the still world of spirits is untold ;
'Tis not of Death or Sin that angels hold
Sweet converse with the slumb’ring infant's thought.
Merely she is with God, and God with her
And her meek ignorance. Guiltless of demur,
For her is faith a hope ; her innocence
Is holiness : the bright-eyed crowing glee
That makes her leap her grandsire's face to see,
Is love unfeigned and willing reverence.
N.B.-It was the opinion of certain ancient divines that when babies smile in sleep their guardian angels are whispering to them.
Four years, long years, and full of strange event
To thee, sweet boy, though brief and bare to me, Of thy young days make up the complement,
And far out-date thy little memory.
How many tears have dropp'd since thou wert born,
Some on the cradle, some upon the grave ! Yet having thee, thy father, not forlorn,
Felt he had something yet of God to crave.
For who hath aught to love, and loves aright,
Will never in the darkest strait despair ; For out of love exhales a living light,
A light that speaks—a light whose breath is prayer.
Sorrow hath been within thy dwelling, child,
Yet sorrow hath not touch'd thy delicate bloom; So, the low floweret in Arabian wild
Grows in the sand, nor fades in the simoom.
What thou hast lost thou know'st not, canst not know,
Too young to wonder when thy elders moan; Thou haply think’st that adult eyes can flow
With tears as quick and transient as thine own.
The swift adoption of an infant's love
Gives to thy heart all infant hearts require ; Unfelt by thee, the mortal shaft that clove
In twain thy duty, left thy love entire.
Ne'er be thy birthday as a day unblest,
Which thou or thine might wish had never been ; But in thine age, a quiet day of rest,
A sabbath, holy, thoughtful, and serene.