The Mother’s Last Watch

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Written on the occasion of the death of the infant daughter of Her Grace the Duchess of Sutherland.

HARK, through the proudly decorated halls,
How strangely sounds the voice of bitter woe,
Where steps that dread their echo as it falls
Steal silently and sadly to and fro.
There, wither'd lies the bud so lately given,
And, beautiful in grief as when she smiled,
Bow'd 'neath the unexpected stroke of Heaven,
The mourning Mother watches o'er her Child.

'Tis her last Watch! Sleep seals those infant lids,
Dark fall the lashes on that roseleaf cheek-
But oh!--the look is there, which Hope forbids;
Of Death--of Death those heavy eyelids speak!--
'Tis her last Watch!--no more that gentle hand
With cautious love shall curtain out the light--
No more that graceful form shall mutely stand
And bless thy slumbers thro' the shadowy night.

Hush'd is the innocent heart which throbbing pain,
Vain hope, and vain regret had never moved.
The God who gave hath claim'd his gift again,
And angels welcome her, on earth so loved.
Yet still of hope and fear the endless strife
Within that Mother's bosom faintly swells,
Still, still she gazes on, and dreams of life,
Though the fond falsehood Reason's pow'r repels.

Unheard each word of comfort faintly falls
From lips whose tones in other days were dear,
Her infant's smile is all her heart recalls,--
Her infant's voice is all her heart can hear;--
She clasps its hand, the feverish glow of hers
Wakes into warmth the freezing current's flow;
She bends,--her sobbing breath a ringlet stirs
With mimic life upon its pallid brow.

Oh! what a mournful thing is human love!
In happier days of hope and bliss gone by
The Mother's heart with pitying throb would move
If but a teardrop dimm'd that laughing eye:
And now she prays that Heaven the boon may give
To hear from those pale lips a cry of pain--
Aught that could bid her sinking soul revive,
And tell the mourner thou wert hers again!

Ah ! never more that dream of hope may be!--
The summer breeze among the boughs shall wave,
The summer sun beam bright o'er land and lea,
But thou, no spring shall wake thee from the grave!
No more those little rosy lips shall greet
With brightly sudden smile her look of pride;
No more with falt'ring steps those fairy feet
Shall totter onward to her cherish'd side.

All, all is over! See, with painful start
She wakens from her trance to feel the whole,
And know the pang even from thy corse to part--
Thou vainly guarded treasure of her soul!
The hand that, ah! so often hath caress'd,
Aids now to place thee in thy narrow bed!
The last wild kiss upon thy cheek is press'd--
The last fond tear upon thy coffin shed!
And all is hush'd: but oft thro' Life's dull track
(When time her present sorrow hath beguiled)
That pale, sweet brow shall dimly bring us back
The Mother's last Watch o'er her fairy Child!

© Caroline Norton