On Seeing Anthony, The Eldest Child Of Lord And Lady Ashley

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IT was a fair and gentle child
Stood leaning by his mother's knee;
His noble brow was smooth and mild--
His eyes shone bright with frolic glee--
And he was stately, though so young;
As from a noble lineage sprung.

So, gazing on him, as we gaze,
Upon a bud, whose promise yet
Lies shut from all the glowing rays
Which afterwards illumine it:
I marvell'd what the fruit might be
When that fair plant became a tree.

Ah! then, what dreams of proud success,
That lordly brow of beauty brought,
With all its infant stateliness,
And all its unripe power of thought!
What triumphs, boundless, unconfined,
Came crowding on my wand'ring mind!

I gave that child, the voice might hold
A future senate in command;
Head clear and prompt--heart true and bold--
As quick to act as understand:
I dream'd the scholar's fame achieved--
The hero's wreath of laurel weaved!

But as I mused, a whisper came
Which (like a friend's reproachful tone,
Whose gentleness can smite with shame
Far more than fiercest word or frown
Roused my vex'd conscience by its spell,
And thus the whisper'd warning fell:--

"Ah! let the shrouded future be,
With all its weight of distant care!
Cloud not with dreams of vanity
That blue bright eye, and forehead fair!
Nor cast thy worldly hopes and fears
In shadow o'er his happy years!

"Desire not, even in thy dreams,
To hasten those remoter hours
Which, bright although their promise seems,
Must strip his spring-time of its flowers!--
What triumph, in the time to come,
Shall match these early days of home?

"This is the Eden of his life,--
His little heart bounds glad and free:
Amid a world of toil and strife,
All independent smileth he!
Nor dreams by that sweet mother's side
Of dark Ambition's restless pride.

"But, like a bird in winter,--still
Fill'd with a sweet and natural joy,
Tho' frost lies bleak upon the hill,
And mists obscure the cold grey sky,
Which sings, tho' on a leafless bough,--
He smiles, even at the gloomiest brow!"

Oh! looking a child's fair face
Methinks should purify the heart;
As angel presences have grace
To bid the darker powers depart,
And glorify our grosser sense
With a reflected innocence!

And seeing thee, thou lovely boy,
My soul, reproach'd, gave up its schemes
Of worldly triumph's heartless joy,
For purer and more sinless dreams,
And mingled in my farewell there
Something of blessing and of prayer.

© Caroline Norton