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TO EDITH MAY SOUTHEY.
1. Edith! ten years are number'd, since the day, Which ushers in the cheerful month of May, To us by thy dear birth, my daughter dear, Was blest. Thou therefore didst the name partake Of that sweet month, the sweetest of the year; But fitlier was it given thee for the sake Of a good man, thy father's friend sincere, Who at the font made answer in thy name. Thy love and reverence rightly may he claim, For closely hath he been with me allied In friendship's holy bonds, from that first hour When in our youth we met on Tejo's side ; Bonds which, defying now all Fortune's power, Time hath not loosen'd, nor will Deathdivide.
2. A child more welcome, by indulgent Heaven Never to parents' tears and prayers was given : For scarcely eight months at thy happy birth Had pass'd, since of thy sister we were left, ... Our first-born and our only babe, bereft. Too fair a flower was she for this rude earth!
The features of her beauteous infancy
3. I saw thee first with trembling thankfulness, O daughter of my hopes and of my fears! Press’d on thy senseless cheek a troubled kiss, And breathed my blessing over thee with tears. But memory did not long our bliss alloy ; For gentle nature who had given relief Wean'd with new love the chasten'd heart from
grief; And the sweet season minister'd to joy.
4. It was a season when their leaves and flowers The trees as to an Arctic summer spread ; When chilling wintry winds and snowy showers, Which had too long usurp'd the vernal hours, Like spectres from the sight of morning, fled Before the presence of that joyous May; And groves and gardens all the live-long day Rung with the birds' loud love-songs. Over all, One thrush was heard from morn till even-fall; Thy Mother well remembers when she lay The happy prisoner of the genial bed,
How from yon lofty poplar's topmost spray
5. How I have doted on thine infant smiles At morning when thine eyes unclosed on mine ; How, as the months in swift succession roll'd, I mark'd thy human faculties unfold, And watch'd the dawning of the light divine; And with what artifice of playful guiles Won from thy lips with still-repeated wiles Kiss after kiss, a reckoning often told, Something I ween thou know'st; for thou hast seen Thy sisters in their turn such fondness prove, And felt how childhood in its winning years The attemper'd soul to tenderness can move. This thou canst tell; but not the hopes and fears With which a parent's heart doth overflow, ...
The thoughts and cares inwoven with that love, ... Its nature and its depth, thou dost not, canst not know.
6. The years which since thy birth have pass'd away May well to thy young retrospect appear A measureless extent: ... like yesterday To me, so soon they fillid their short career. To thee discourse of reason have they brought, With sense of time and change; and something too Of this precarious state of things have taught,
Where Man abideth never in one stay ;
That even the longest day of life is brief,
7. Thy happy nature from the painful thought With instinct turns, and scarcely canst thou bear To hear me name the Grave: Thou knowest not How large a portion of my heart is there ! The faces which I loved in infancy Are gone; and bosom-friends of riper age, With whom I fondly talk'd of years to come, Summon'd before me to their heritage Are in the better world, beyond the tomb. And I have brethren there, and sisters dear,
And dearer babes. I therefore needs must dwell Often in thought with those whom still I love so well.
8. Thus wilt thou feel in thy maturer mind; When grief shall be thy portion, thou wilt find Safe consolation in such thoughts as these, ... A present refuge in affliction's hour. And if indulgent Heaven thy lot should bless With all imaginable happiness, Here shalt thou have, my child, beyond all power Of chance, thy holiest, surest, best delight. Take therefore now thy Father's latest lay, ..