Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)
The Drunkard's Child
1He stood beside his dying child,
2 With a dim and bloodshot eye;
3They'd won him from the haunts of vice
4 To see his first-born die.
5He came with a slow and staggering tread,
6 A vague, unmeaning stare,
7And, reeling, clasped the clammy hand,
8 So deathly pale and fair.
9In a dark and gloomy chamber,
10 Life ebbing fast away,
11On a coarse and wretched pallet,
12 The dying sufferer lay:
13A smile of recognition
14 Lit up the glazing eye;
15"I'm very glad," it seemed to say,
16 "You've come to see me die."
17That smile reached to his callous heart,
18 It sealed fountains stirred;
19He tried to speak, but on his lips
20 Faltered and died each word.
21And burning tears like rain
22 Poured down his bloated face,
23Where guilt, remorse and shame
24 Had scathed, and left their trace.
25"My father!" said the dying child,
26 (His voice was faint and low,)
27"Oh! clasp me closely to your heart,
28 And kiss me ere I go.
29Bright angels beckon me away,
30 To the holy city fair --
31Oh! tell me, Father, ere I go,
32 Say, will you meet me there?"
33He clasped him to his throbbing heart,
34 "I will! I will!" he said;
35His pleading ceased -- the father held
36 His first-born and his dead!
37The marble brow, with golden curls,
38 Lay lifeless on his breast;
39Like sunbeams on the distant clouds
40 Which line the gorgeous west.
11] pallet: straw mattress.
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: Frances Ellen Watkins, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (Boston: J. B. Yerrinton, 1854): 13-14. Nendeln/Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint, 1971. PS 1799 H7P7 1854a.
First publication date:
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/7
Other poems by Frances Ellen Watkins