WHEN first thou camest, gentle, shy, and fond,
My eldest-born, first hope, and dearest treasure,
My heart received thee with a joy beyond
All that it yet had felt of earthly pleasure;
Nor thought that any love again might be
So deep and strong as that I felt for thee.
Faithful and true, with sense beyond thy years,
And natural piety that lean'd to Heaven;
Wrung by a harsh word suddenly to tears,
Yet patient of rebuke when justly given--
Obedient--easy to be reconciled--
And meekly-cheerful--such wert thou, my child!
Not willing to be left; still by my side
Haunting my walks, while summer-day was dying;--
Nor leaving in thy turn; but pleased to glide
Thro' the dark room where I was sadly lying,
Or by the couch of pain, a sitter meek,
Watch the dim eye, and kiss the feverish cheek.
O boy! of such as thou are oftenest made
Earth's fragile idols; like a tender flower,
No strength in all thy freshness,--prone to fade,--
And bending weakly to the thunder-shower,--
Still, round the loved, thy heart found force to bind,
And clung, like woodbine shaken in the wind!
Then THOU, my merry love;--bold in thy glee,
Under the bough, or by the firelight dancing,
With thy sweet temper, and thy spirit free,
Didst come, as restless as a bird's wing glancing,
Full of a wild and irrepressible mirth,
Like a young sunbeam to the gladden'd earth!
Thine was the shout! the song! the burst of joy!
Which sweet from childhood's rosy lip resoundeth;
Thine was the eager spirit nought could cloy,
And the glad heart from which all grief reboundeth;
And many a mirthful jest and mock reply,
Lurk'd in the laughter of thy dark-blue eye!
And thine was many an art to win and bless,
The cold and stern to joy and fondness warming;
The coaxing smile;--the frequent soft caress;--
The earnest tearful prayer all wrath disarming!
Again my heart a new affection found,
But thought that lore with thee had reach'd its bound.
At length THOU camest; thou, the last and least;
Nick-named "The Emperor" by thy laughing brothers,
Because a haughty spirit swell'd thy breast,
And thou didst seek to rule and sway the others;
Mingling with every playful infant wile
A mimic majesty that made us smile:--
And oh! most like a regal child wert thou!
An eye of resolute and successful scheming!
Fair shoulders--curling lip--and dauntless brow--
Fit for the world's strife, not for Poet's dreaming:
And proud the lifting of thy stately head,
And the firm bearing of thy conscious tread.
Different from both! Yet each succeeding claim,
I, that all other love had been forswearing,
Forthwith admitted, equal and the same;
Nor injured either, by this love's comparing,
Nor stole a fraction for the newer call--
But in the Mother's heart, found room for ALL!