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A Baby's Death

A little soul scarce fledged for earth
Takes wing with heaven again for goal
Even while we hailed as fresh from birth
  A little soul.

Our thoughts ring sad as bells that toll,
Not knowing beyond this blind world's girth
What things are writ in heaven's full scroll.

Our fruitfulness is there but dearth,
And all things held in time's control
Seem there, perchance, ill dreams, not worth
  A little soul.

The little feet that never trod
Earth, never strayed in field or street,
What hand leads upward back to God
  The little feet?

A rose in June's most honied heat,
When life makes keen the kindling sod,
Was not so soft and warm and sweet.

Their pilgrimage's period
A few swift moons have seen complete
Since mother's hands first clasped and shod
  The little feet.

The little hands that never sought
Earth's prizes, worthless all as sands,
What gift has death, God's servant, brought
  The little hands?

We ask: but love's self silent stands,
Love, that lends eyes and wings to thought
To search where death's dim heaven expands.

Ere this, perchance, though love know nought,
Flowers fill them, grown in lovelier lands,
Where hands of guiding angels caught
  The little hands.

The little eyes that never knew
Light other than of dawning skies,
What new life now lights up anew
  The little eyes?

Who knows but on their sleep may rise
Such light as never heaven let through
To lighten earth from Paradise?

No storm, we know, may change the blue
Soft heaven that haply death descries
No tears, like these in ours, bedew
  The little eyes.

Was life so strange, so sad the sky,
  So strait the wide world's range,
He would not stay to wonder why
  Was life so strange?

Was earth's fair house a joyless grange
  Beside that house on high
Whence Time that bore him failed to estrange?

That here at once his soul put by
  All gifts of time and change,
And left us heavier hearts to sigh
  'Was life so strange?'

Angel by name love called him, seeing so fair
  The sweet small frame;
Meet to be called, if ever man's child were,
  Angel by name.

Rose-bright and warm from heaven's own heart he came,
  And might not bear
The cloud that covers earth's wan face with shame.

His little light of life was all too rare
  And soft a flame:
Heaven yearned for him till angels hailed him there
  Angel by name.

The song that smiled upon his birthday here
Weeps on the grave that holds him undefiled
Whose loss makes bitterer than a soundless tear
  The song that smiled.

His name crowned once the mightiest ever styled
Sovereign of arts, and angel: fate and fear
Knew then their master, and were reconciled.

But we saw born beneath some tenderer sphere
Michael, an angel and a little child,
Whose loss bows down to weep upon his bier
  The song that smiled.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:32 min read
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Algernon Charles Swinburne

Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He wrote several novels and collections of poetry such as Poems and Ballads, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Swinburne wrote about many taboo topics, such as lesbianism, cannibalism, sado-masochism, and anti-theism. His poems have many common motifs, such as the ocean, time, and death. Several historical people are featured in his poems, such as Sappho ("Sapphics"), Anactoria ("Anactoria"), Jesus ("Hymn to Proserpine": Galilaee, La. "Galilean") and Catullus ("To Catullus"). more…

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