The Foundling

A poem by Josephine Preston Peabody

Beautiful Mother, I have toiled all day;
And I am wearied. And the day is done.
Now, while the wild brooks run
Soft by the furrows--fading, gold to gray,
Their laughters turned to musing--ah, let me
Hide here my face at thine unheeding knee,
Beautiful Mother; if I be thy son.

The birds fly low. Gulls, starlings, hoverers,
Along the meadows and the paling foam,
All wings of thine that roam
Fly down, fly down. One reedy murmur blurs
The silence of the earth; and from the warm
Face of the field the upward savors swarm
Into the darkness. And the herds are home.

All they are stalled and folded for their rest,
The creatures: cloud-fleece young that leap and veer;
Mad-mane and gentle ear;
And breath of loving-kindness. And that best,--
O shaggy house-mate, watching me from far,
With human-aching heart, as I a star--
Tempest of plum├Ęd joys, just to be near!

So close, so like, so dear; and whom I love
More than thou lovest them, or lovest me.
So beautiful to see,
Ah, and to touch! When those far lights above
Scorch me with farness--lights that call and call
To the far heart, and answer not at all;
Save that they will not let the darkness be.

And what am I? That I alone of these
Make me most glad at noon? That I should mark
The after-glow go dark?
This hour to sing--but never have--heart's-ease!
That when the sorrowing winds fly low, and croon
Outside our happy windows their old rune,
Beautiful Mother, I must wake, and hark?

Who am I? Why for me this iron Must?
Burden the moon-white ox would never bear;
Load that he cannot share,
He, thine imperial hostage of the dust.
Else should I look to see the god's surprise
Flow from his great unscornful, lovely eyes--
The ox thou gavest to partake my care.

Yea, all they bear their yoke of sun-filled hours.
I, lord at noon, at nightfall no more free,
Take on more heavily
The yoke of hid, intolerable Powers.
--Then pushes here, in my forgetful hand,
This near one's breathless plea to understand.
Starward I look; he, even so, at me!

And she who shines within my house, my sight
Of the heart's eyes, my hearth-glow, and my rain,
My singing's one refrain--
Are there for her no tidings from the height?
For her, my solace, likewise lost and far,
Islanded with me here, on this lone star
Washed by the ceaseless tides of dark and light.

What shall it profit, that I built for her
A little wayside shelter from the stark
Sky that we hear, and mark?
Lo, in her eyes all dreams that ever were!
And cheek-to-cheek with me she shares the quest,
Her heart, as mine for her, sole tented rest
From light to light of day; from dark--till Dark.

Yea, but for her, how should I greatly care
Whither and whence? But that the dark should blast
Our bright! To hold her fast,--
Yet feel this dread creep gray along the air.
To know I cannot hold her so my own,
But under surge of joy, the surges moan
That threaten us with parting at the last!

Beautiful Mother, I am not thy son.
I know from echoes far behind the sky.
I know; I know not why.
Even from thy golden, wide oblivion:
Thy careless leave to help thy harvesting,
Thy leave to work a little, live, and sing;
Thy leave to suffer--yea, to sing and die,
Beautiful Mother! ...
Ah, Whose child am I?



Love sang to me. And I went down the stair,
And out into the darkness and the dew;
And bowed myself unto the little grass,
And the blind herbs, and the unshapen dust
Of earth without a face. So let me be.

For as I hear, the singing makes of me
My own desire, and momently I grow.
Yea, all the while with hands of melody,
The singing makes me, out of what I was,
Even as a potter shaping Eden clay.

Ever Love sings, and saith in words that sing,
'Beloved, thus art thou; and even so
Lovely art thou, Beloved!'--Even so,
As the Sea weaves her path before the light,
I hear, I hear, and I am glorified.

Love sang to me, and I am glorified
Because of some commandment in the stars.
And I shall grow in favour and in shining,
Till at the last I am all-beautiful;
Beautiful, for the day Love sings no more.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Foundling' by Josephine Preston Peabody

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy