Frances Ellen Watkins (1825-1911)
The Slave Mother
1Heard you that shriek? It rose
2 So wildly on the air,
3It seemed as if a burden'd heart
4 Was breaking in despair.
5Saw you those hands so sadly clasped --
6 The bowed and feeble hand --
7The shuddering of that fragile form --
8 That look of grief and dread?
9Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
10 Its every glance was pain,
11As if a storm of agony
12 Were sweeping through the brain.
13She is a mother, pale with fear,
14 Her boy clings to her side,
15And in her kirtle vainly tries
16 His trembling form to hide.
17He is not hers, although she bore
18 For him a mother's pains;
19He is not hers, although her blood
20 Is coursing through his veins!
21He is not hers, for cruel hands
22 May rudely tear apart
23The only wreath of household love
24 That binds her breaking heart.
25His love has been a joyous light
26 That o'er her pathway smiled,
27A fountain gushing ever new,
28 Amid life's desert wild.
29His lightest word has been a tone
30 Of music round her heart,
31Their lives a streamlet blent in one --
32 Oh, Father! must they part?
33They tear him from her circling arms,
34 Her last and fond embrace.
35Oh! never more may her sad eyes
36 Gaze on his mournful face.
37No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
38 Disturb the listening air;
39She is a mother, and her heart
40 Is breaking in despair.
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): 6-8. 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