Mother and Daughter- Sonnet Sequence

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Young laughters, and my music! Aye till now
  The voice can reach no blending minors near;
  'Tis the bird's trill because the spring is here
And spring means trilling on a blossomy bough;
'Tis the spring joy that has no why or how,
  But sees the sun and hopes not nor can fear--
  Spring is so sweet and spring seems all the year.
Dear voice, the first-come birds but trill as thou.

Oh music of my heart, be thus for long:
Too soon the spring bird learns the later song;
  Too soon a sadder sweetness slays content
Too soon! There comes new light on onward day,
There comes new perfume o'er a rosier way:
  Comes not again the young spring joy that went.
  ROME, November 1881.

That she is beautiful is not delight,
  As some think mothers joy, by pride of her,
  To witness questing eyes caught prisoner
And hear her praised the livelong dancing night;
But the glad impulse that makes painters sight
  Bids me note her and grow the happier;
  And love that finds me as her worshipper
Reveals me each best loveliness aright.

  Oh goddess head! Oh innocent brave eyes!
Oh curved and parted lips where smiles are rare
And sweetness ever! Oh smooth shadowy hair
Gathered around the silence of her brow!
  Child, I'd needs love thy beauty stranger-wise:
And oh the beauty of it, being thou!

I watch the sweet grave face in timorous thought
  Lest I should see it dawn to some unrest
  And read that in her heart is youth's ill guest,
The querulous young sadness, born of nought,
That wearies of the strife it has not fought,
  And finds the life it has not had unblest,
  And asks it knows not what that should be best,
And till Love come has never what it sought.

But she is still. A full and crystal lake
  So gives it skies their passage to its deeps
In an unruffled morn where no winds wake,
  And, strong and fretless, 'stirs not, nor yet sleeps.
My darling smiles and 'tis for gladness' sake;
  She hears a woe, 'tis simple tears she weeps.

'Tis but a child. The quiet Juno gaze
  Breaks at a trifle into mirth and glow,
  Changed as a folded bud bursts into blow,
And she springs, buoyant, on some busy craze,
Or, in the rhythm of her girlish plays,
  Like light upon swift waves floats to and fro,
  And, whatsoe'er's her mirth, needs me to know,
And keeps me young by her young innocent ways.

Just now she and her kitten raced and sprang
  To catch the daisy ball she tossed about;
  Then they grew grave, and found a shady tree,
And kitty tried to see the notes she sang:
  Now she flies hitherward--"Mother! Quick! Come see!
  Two hyacinths in my garden almost out!"

Last night the broad blue lightnings flamed the sky;
  We watched, our breaths caught as each burst its way,
  And through its fire out-leaped the sharp white ray,
And sudden dark re-closed when it went by:
But she, that where we are will needs be nigh,
  Had tired with hunting orchids half the day.
  Her father thought she called us; he and I,
Half anxious, reached the bedroom where she lay.

Oh lily face upon the whiteness blent!
  How calm she lay in her unconscious grace!
A peal crashed on the silence ere we went;
  She stirred in sleep, a little changed her place,
  "Mother," she breathed, a smile grew on her face:
"Mother," my darling breathed, and slept content.

Sometimes, as young things will, she vexes me,
  Wayward, or too unheeding, or too blind.
  Like aimless birds that, flying on a wind,
Strike slant against their own familiar tree;
Like venturous children pacing with the sea,
  That turn but when the breaker spurts behind
  Outreaching them with spray: she in such kind
Is borne against some fault, or does not flee.

And so, may be, I blame her for her wrong,
  And she will frown and lightly plead her part,
And then I bid her go. But 'tis not long:
  Then comes she lip to ear and heart to heart.
And thus forgiven her love seems newly strong,
  And, oh my penitent, how dear thou art!

Her father lessons me I at times am hard,
  Chiding a moment's fault as too grave ill,
  And let some little blot my vision fill,
Scanning her with a narrow near regard.
True. Love's unresting gaze is self-debarred
  From all sweet ignorance, and learns a skill,
  Not painless, of such signs as hurt love's will,
That would not have its prize one tittle marred.

Alas! Who rears and loves a dawning rose
  Starts at a speck upon one petal's rim:
Who sees a dusk creep in the shrined pearl's glows,
  Is ruined at once: "My jewel growing dim!"
I watch one bud that on my bosom blows,
  I watch one treasured pearl for me and him.

A little child she, half defiant came
  Reasoning her case--'twas not so long ago--
  "I cannot mind your scolding, for I know
However bad I were you'd love the same."
And I, what countering answer could I frame?
  'Twas true, and true, and God's self told her so.
  One does but ask one's child to smile and grow,
And each rebuke has love for its right name.

And yet, methinks, sad mothers who for years,
  Watching the child pass forth that was their boast,
Have counted all the footsteps by new fears
Till even lost fears seem hopes whereof they're reft
And of all mother's good love sole is left--
  Is their Love, Love, or some remembered ghost?

Oh weary hearts! Poor mothers that look back!
  So outcasts from the vale where they were born
  Turn on their road and, with a joy forlorn,
See the far roofs below their arid track:
So in chill buffets while the sea grows black
  And windy skies, once blue, are tost and torn,
  We are not yet forgetful of the morn,
And praise anew the sunshine that we lack.

Oh, sadder than pale sufferers by a tomb
  That say "My dead is happier, and is more"
  Are they who dare no "is" but tell what's o'er--
  Thus the frank childhood, those the lovable ways--
  Stirring the ashes of remembered days
For yet some sparks to warm the livelong gloom.


Love's Counterfeit.

Not Love, not Love, that worn and footsore thrall
  Who, crowned with withered buds and leaves gone dry,
  Plods in his chains to follow one passed by,
Guerdoned with only tears himself lets fall.
Love is asleep and smiling in his pall,
  And this that wears his shape and will not die
  Was once his comrade shadow, Memory--
His shadow that now stands for him in all.

And there are those who, hurrying on past reach,
  See the dim follower and laugh, content,
  "Lo, Love pursues me, go where'er I will!"
Yet, longer gazing, some may half beseech,
  "This must be Love that wears his features still:
Or else when was the moment that Love went?"


Love's Mourner.

'Tis men who say that through all hurt and pain
  The woman's love, wife's, mother's, still will hold,
  And breathes the sweeter and will more unfold
For winds that tear it, and the sorrowful rain.
So in a thousand voices has the strain
  Of this dear patient madness been retold,
  That men call woman's love. Ah! they are bold,
Naming for love that grief which does remain.

Love faints that looks on baseness face to face:
  Love pardons all; but by the pardonings dies,
  With a fresh wound of each pierced through the breast.
And there stand pityingly in Love's void place
  Kindness of household wont familiar-wise,
  And faith to Love--faith to our dead at rest.

She has made me wayside posies: here they stand,
  Bringing fresh memories of where they grew.
  As new-come travellers from a world we knew
Wake every while some image of their land,
So these whose buds our woodland breezes fanned
  Bring to my room the meadow where they blew,
  The brook-side cliff, the elms where wood-doves coo--
And every flower is dearer for her hand.

Oh blossoms of the paths she loves to tread,
  Some grace of her is in all thoughts you bear:
  For in my memories of your homes that were
The old sweet loneliness they kept is fled,
And would I think it back I find instead
  A presence of my darling mingling there.

My darling scarce thinks music sweet save mine:
  'Tis that she does but love me more than hear.
  She'll not believe my voice to stranger ear
Is merely measure to the note and line;
"Not so," she says; "Thou hast a secret thine:
  The others' singing's only rich, or clear,
  But something in thy tones brings music near;
As though thy song could search me and divine."

Oh voice of mine that in some day not far
  Time, the strong creditor, will call his debt,
Will dull--and even to her--will rasp and mar,
  Sing Time asleep because of her regret,
Be twice thy life the thing her fancies are,
  Thou echo to the self she knows not yet.
  CASERTA, April, 1882.

To love her as to-day is so great bliss
  I needs must think of morrows almost loth,
  Morrows wherein the flower's unclosing growth
Shall make my darling other than she is.
The breathing rose excels the bud I wis,
  Yet bud that will be rose is sweet for both;
  And by-and-by seems like some later troth
Named in the moment of a lover's kiss.

Yes, I am jealous, as of one now strange
  That shall instead of her possess my thought,
Of her own self made new by any change,
  Of her to be by ripening morrows brought.
My rose of women under later skies!
Yet, ah! my child with the child's trustful eyes!

That some day Death who has us all for jest
  Shall hide me in the dark and voiceless mould,
  And him whose living hand has mine in hold,
Where loving comes not nor the looks that rest,
Shall make us nought where we are known the best,
  Forgotten things that leave their track untold
  As in the August night the sky's dropped gold--
This seems no strangeness, but Death's natural hest.

But looking on the dawn that is her face
  To know she too is Death's seems mis-belief;
She should not find decay, but, as the sun
Moves mightier from the veil that hides his place,
Keep ceaseless radiance. Life is Death begun:
  But Death and her! That's strangeness passing grief.

She will not have it that my day wanes low,
  Poor of the fire its drooping sun denies,
  That on my brow the thin lines write good-byes
Which soon may be read plain for all to know,
Telling that I have done with youth's brave show;
Alas! and done with youth in heart and eyes,
  With wonder and with far expectancies,
Save but to say "I knew such long ago."

She will not have it. Loverlike to me,
  She with her happy gaze finds all that's best,
She sees this fair and that unfretted still,
  And her own sunshine over all the rest:
So she half keeps me as she'd have me be,
And I forget to age, through her sweet will.

And how could I grow old while she's so young?
  Methinks her heart sets tune for mine to beat,
  We are so near; her new thoughts, incomplete,
Find their shaped wording happen on my tongue;
Like bloom on last year's winterings newly sprung
  My youth upflowers with hers, and must repeat
  Old joyaunces in me nigh obsolete.
Could I grow older while my child's so young?

And there are tales how youthful blood instilled
  Thawing frore Age's veins gave life new course,
And quavering limbs and eyes made indolent
  Grew freshly eager with beginning force:
She so breathes impulse. Were my years twice spent,
Not burdening Age, with her, could make me chilled.

'Tis hard that the full summer of our round
  Is but the turn where winter's sign-post's writ;
  That to have reached the best is leaving it;
That final loss bears date from having found.
So some proud vessel in a narrow sound
  Sails at high water with the fair wind fit,
  And lo! the ebb along the sandy spit,
Lower and lower till she jars, aground.

'Tis hard. We are young still but more content;
  'Tis our ripe flush, the heyday of our prime;
We learn full breath, how rich of the air we are!
  But suddenly we note a touch of time,
A little fleck that scarcely seems to mar;
And we know then that some time since youth went.

Life on the wane: yes, sudden that news breaks.
  And yet I would 'twere suddenly and less soon;
  Since no forewarning makes loss opportune.
And now I watch that slow advance Time makes:
Watch as, while silent flow spreads broad the lakes
  Mid the land levels of a smooth lagoon,
  One waiting, pitiful, on a tidal dune,
Aware too long before it overtakes.

Ah! there's so quick a joy in hues and sun,
  And will my eyes see dim? Will vacant sense
Forget the lark, the surges on the beach?
Shall I step wearily and wish 'twere done?
  Well, if it be love will not too go hence,
Love will have new glad secrets yet to teach.

There's one I miss. A little questioning maid
  That held my finger, trotting by my side,
  And smiled out of her pleased eyes open wide,
Wondering and wiser at each word I said.
And I must help her frolics if she played,
  And I must feel her trouble if she cried;
  My lap was hers past right to be denied;
She did my bidding, but I more obeyed.

Dearer she is to-day, dearer and more;
  Closer to me, since sister womanhoods meet;
Yet, like poor mothers some long while bereft,
I dwell on toward ways, quaint memories left,
  I miss the approaching sound of pit-pat feet,
The eager baby voice outside my door.

Hardly in any common tender wise,
  With petting talk, light lips on her dear cheek,
  The love I mean my child will bear to speak,
Loth of its own less image for disguise;
But liefer will it floutingly devise,
  Using a favourite jester's mimic pique,
  Prompt, idle, by-names with their sense to seek,
And takes for language laughing ironies.

But she, as when some foreign tongue is heard,
  Familiar on our lips and closely known,
We feel the every purport of each word
  When ignorant ears reach empty sound alone,
So knows the core within each merry gird,
  So gives back such a meaning in her own.

The brook leaps riotous with its life just found,
  That freshets from the mountain rains have fed,
  Beats at the boulders in its hindered bed,
And fills the valley with its triumphing sound.
The strong unthirsty tarn sunk in deep ground
  Has never a sigh wherewith its wealth is said,
  Has no more ripples than the May-flies tread:
Silence of waters is where they abound.

And love, whatever love, sure, makes small boast:
  'Tis the new lovers tell, in wonder yet.
Oh happy need! Enriched stream's jubilant gush!
But who being spouses well have learned love's most,
  Being child and mother learned not nor forget,
These in their joyfulness feel the tarn's strong hush.

Birds sing "I love you, love" the whole day through,
  And not another song can they sing right;
  But, singing done with, loving's done with quite,
The autumn sunders every twittering two.
And I'd not have love make too much ado
  With sweet parades of fondness and delight,
  Lest iterant wont should make caresses trite,
Love-names mere cuckoo ousters of the true.

Oh heart can hear heart's sense in senseless nought,
  And heart that's sure of heart has little speech.
What shall it tell? The other knows its thought.
  What shall one doubt or question or beseech
Who is assured and knows and, unbesought,
  Possesses the dear trust that each gives each.

"You scarcely are a mother, at that rate.
  Only one child!" The blithe soul pitied loud.
  And doubtless she, amid her household crowd,
When one brings care in another's fortunate;
When one fares forth another's at her gate.
  Yea, were her first-born folded in his shroud,
  Not with a whole despair would she be bowed,
She has more sons to make her heart elate.

Many to love her singly, mother theirs,
  To give her the dear love of being their need,
  To storm her lap by turns and claim their kiss,
To kneel around her at their bed-time prayers;
  Many to grow her comrades! Some have this.
  Yet I, I do not envy them indeed.
  RAMSGATE, 1886.

You think that you love each as much as one,
  Mothers with many nestlings 'neath your wings.
  Nay, but you know not. Love's most priceless things
Have unity that cannot be undone.
You give the rays, I the englobed full sun;
  I give the river, you the separate springs:
  My motherhood's all my child's with all it brings--
None takes the strong entireness from her: none.

You know not. You love yours with various stress;
  This with a graver trust, this with more pride;
This maybe with more needed tenderness:
I by each uttermost passion of my soul
Am turned to mine; she is one, she has the whole:
  How should you know who appraise love and divide?

Of my one pearl so much more joy I gain
  As he that to his sole desire is sworn,
  Indifferent what women more were born,
And if she loved him not all love were vain,
Gains more, because of her--yea, through all pain,
  All love and sorrows, were they two forlorn--
  Than whoso happiest in the lands of morn
Mingles his heart amid a wifely train.

Oh! Child and mother, darling! Mother and child!
  And who but we? We, darling, paired alone?
  Thou hast all thy mother; thou art all my own.
  That passion of maternity which sweeps
Tideless 'neath where the heaven of thee hath smiled
  Has but one channel, therefore infinite deeps.

Since first my little one lay on my breast
  I never needed such a second good,
  Nor felt a void left in my motherhood
She filled not always to the utterest.
The summer linnet, by glad yearnings pressed,
  Builds room enough to house a callow brood:
  I prayed not for another child--nor could;
My solitary bird had my heart's nest.

But she is cause that any baby thing
  If it but smile, is one of mine in truth,
  And every child becomes my natural joy:
And, if my heart gives all youth fostering,
  Her sister, brother, seems the girl or boy:
  My darling makes me mother to their youth.

© Augusta Davies Webster