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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.

Notes

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: 1854
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/7

Rhyme: abcbdefe


Other poems by Frances Ellen Watkins