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Susanna Moodie (1803-1885)

The Step Mother


              1Well I recall my Father's wife,
              2    The day he brought her home.
              3His children looked for years of strife,
              4    And troubles sure to come --
              5Ungraciously we welcomed her,
              6    A thing to scorn and blame;
              7And swore we never would confer
              8    On her, a Mother's name

              9I see her yet -- a girl in years,
            10    With eyes so blue and mild;
            11She greeted us with smiles and tears,
            12    How sweetly too she smiled --
            13She bent to kiss my sullen brow,
            14    With woman's gentle grace;
            15And laid her tiny hand of snow
            16    On my averted face --

            17"Henry -- is this your son? She said --
            18    "Dear boy -- he now is mine --
            19What not one kiss? --" I shook my head,
            20    "I am no son of thine! --"
            21She sighed -- and from her dimpled cheek
            22    The rosy colour fled;
            23She turned away and did not speak,
            24    My thoughts were with the dead --

            25There leaped from out my Father's eyes
            26    A jet of swarthy fire;
            27That flashed on me in fierce surprise --
            28    I fled before his ire
            29I heard her gentle voice entreat --
            30    "Forgiveness for her sake" --
            31Which added swiftness to my feet,
            32    A sad and strange mistake --

            33A year had scarcely rolled away
            34    When by that hated bride;
            35I loved to linger half the day,
            36    In very joy and pride;
            37Her voice was music to mine ear,
            38    So soft its accent fell;
            39"Dear Mother now" -- and oh, how dear
            40    No words of mine can tell --

            41She was so gentle, fair and kind,
            42    So pure in soul and free from art;
            43That woman with her noble mind,
            44    Subdued my rebel heart --
            45I just had learned to know her worth,
            46    My Father's second choice to bless;
            47When God removed her from the earth,
            48    And plunged us all in deep distress --

            49Hot fever smote with burning blight
            50    Stretchd on a restless bed of pain;
            51I moaning lay from morn till night
            52    With aching limbs and throbbing brain --
            53Four weary weeks beside my bed,
            54    She sat within a darkened room;
            55Untiring held my aching head,
            56    Nor heeded silence -- cold and gloom --

            57And when my courage quite gave way,
            58    And fainter grew my struggling breath;
            59She taught my stricken soul to pray
            60    And calmly meet approaching death --
            61"Fear not God's angel, sent by Him,
            62    The weary spirit to release;
            63Before the mortal eyes grow dim,
            64    Floats down the white winged dove of peace" --

            65There came a change -- but fingers small,
            66    No longer smoothed my matted hair;
            67She sprang not to my feeble call,
            68    Nor helped to lift me to my chair --
            69And I arose as from the dead,
            70    A life for her dear life was given;
            71The angel who had watched my bed
            72    Had vanished into Heaven! --


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library MS. 3080, holograph collection of poems, "Written for Agnes Dunbar FitzGibbon, with the love and blessing of her old Mother Susanna Moodie -- March -- 6th -- 1866."
First publication date: 1999
Publication date note: RPO
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1999.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/4

Composition date: 1856
Composition date note: (Belleville)
Rhyme: ababcdcd


Other poems by Susanna Moodie