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Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

On a Dead Child


              1Perfect little body, without fault or stain on thee,
              2    With promise of strength and manhood full and fair!
              3        Though cold and stark and bare,
              4The bloom and the charm of life doth awhile remain on thee.

              5Thy mother's treasure wert thou; -- alas! no longer
              6    To visit her heart with wondrous joy; to be
              7        Thy father's pride;---ah, he
              8Must gather his faith together, and his strength make stronger.

              9To me, as I move thee now in the last duty,
            10    Dost thou with a turn or gesture anon respond;
            11        Startling my fancy fond
            12With a chance attitude of the head, a freak of beauty.

            13Thy hand clasps, as 'twas wont, my finger, and holds it:
            14    But the grasp is the clasp of Death, heartbreaking and stiff;
            15        Yet feels to my hand as if
            16'Twas still thy will, thy pleasure and trust that enfolds it.

            17So I lay thee there, thy sunken eyelids closing, --
            18    Go lie thou there in thy coffin, thy last little bed! --
            19        Propping thy wise, sad head,
            20Thy firm, pale hands across thy chest disposing.

            21So quiet! doth the change content thee? -- Death, whither hath he taken thee?
            22    To a world, do I think, that rights the disaster of this?
            23        The vision of which I miss,
            24Who weep for the body, and wish but to warm thee and awaken thee?

            25Ah! little at best can all our hopes avail us
            26    To lift this sorrow, or cheer us, when in the dark,
            27        Unwilling, alone we embark,
            28And the things we have seen and have known and have heard of, fail us.


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: Poetical Works of Robert Bridges with The Testament of Beauty but excluding the eight drama, 2nd edn. (London: Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1953): 267-68.
First publication date: 1890
Publication date note: Shorter Poems, Book III
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/8/11

Form: quatrains
Rhyme: abba


Other poems by Robert Bridges