Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

Here you will find the Long Poem The Child Of The Islands - Opening of poet Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

The Child Of The Islands - Opening


OF all the joys that brighten suffering earth, 
What joy is welcomed like a new-born child? 
What life so wretched, but that, at its birth, 
Some heart rejoiced--some lip in gladness smiled? 
The poorest cottager, by love beguiled, 
Greets his new burden with a kindly eye; 
He knows his son must toil as he hath toiled; 
But cheerful Labour, standing patient by, 
Laughs at the warning shade of meagre Poverty! 

The pettiest squire who holds his bounded sway 
In some far nook of England's fertile ground, 
Keeps a high jubilee the happy day 
Which bids the bonfires blaze, the joybells sound, 
And the small tenantry come flocking round, 
While the old steward triumphs to declare 
The mother's suffering hour with safety crowned; 
And then, with reverent eyes, and grey locks bare, 
Falters--'GOD bless the Boy!' his Master's Son and Heir! 

The youthful couple, whose sad marriage-vow 
Received no sanction from a haughty sire, 
Feel, as they gaze upon their infant's brow, 
The angel, Hope, whose strong wings never tire-- 
Once more their long discouraged hearts inspire; 
Surely, they deem, the smiles of that young face, 
Shall thaw the frost of his relentless ire! 
Homeward they turn in thought; old scenes retrace; 
And, weeping, yearn to meet his reconciled embrace! 

Yea, for this cause, even SHAME will step aside, 
And cease to bow the head and wring the heart; 
For she that is a mother, but no bride, 
Out of her lethargy of woe will start, 
Pluck from her side that sorrow's barbéd dart, 
And, now no longer faint and full of fears, 
Plan how she best protection may impart 
To the lone course of those forsaken years 
Which dawn in Love's warm light, though doomed to set in tears! 

The dread exception--when some frenzied mind, 
Crushed by the weight of unforeseen distress, 
Grows to that feeble creature all unkind, 
And Nature's sweetest fount, through grief's excess, 
Is strangely turned to gall and bitterness; 
When the deserted babe is left to lie, 
Far from the woeful mother's lost caress, 
Under the broad cope of the solemn sky, 
Or, by her shuddering hands, forlorn, condemned to die: 

Monstrous, unnatural, and MAD, is deemed, 
However dark life's Future glooms in view, 
An act no sane and settled heart had dreamed, 
Even in extremity of want to do! 
And surely WE should hold that verdict true, 
Who, for men's lives--not children's--have thought fit 
(Though high those lives were valued at their due) 
The savage thirst of murder to acquit, 
By stamping cold revenge an error of crazed wit! 

She--after pains unpitied, unrelieved-- 
Sate in her weakness, lonely and forlorn, 
Listening bewildered, while the wind that grieved, 
Mocked the starved wailing of her newly born; 
Racking her brain from weary night till morn 
For friendly names, and chance of present aid; 
Till, as she felt how this world's crushing scorn, 
Passing the Tempter, rests on the Betrayed,-- 
Hopeless, she flung to Death the life her sin had made! 

Yes, deem her mad! for holy is the sway 
Of that mysterious sense which bids us bend 
Toward the young souls new clothed in helpless clay,-- 
Fragile beginnings of a mighty end,-- 
Angels unwinged,--which human care must tend 
Till they can tread the world's rough path alone, 
Serve for themselves, or in themselves offend. 
But God o'erlooketh all from His high throne, 
And sees, with eyes benign, their weakness--and our own! 

Therefore we pray for them, when sunset brings 
Rest to the joyous heart and shining head; 
When flowers are closed, and birds fold up their wings, 
And watchful mothers pass each cradle-bed 
With hushed soft steps, and earnest eyes that shed 
Tears far more glad than smiling! Yea, all day 
We bless them; while, by guileless pleasure led, 
Their voices echo in their gleesome play, 
And their whole careless souls are making holiday. 

And if, by Heaven's inscrutable decree, 
Death calls, and human skill be vain to save; 
If the bright child that clambered to our knee, 
Be coldly buried in the silent grave; 
Oh! with what wild lament we moan and rave! 
What passionate tears fall down in ceaseless shower! 
There lies Perfection!--there, of all life gave-- 
The bud that would have proved the sweetest flower 
That ever woke to bloom within an earthly bower! 

For, in this hope our intellects abjure 
All reason--all experience--and forego 
Belief in that which only is secure, 
Our natural chance and share of human woe. 
The father pitieth David's heart-struck blow, 
But for himself, such augury defies: 
No future Absalom his love can know; 
No pride, no passion, no rebellion lies <