We Lament Not For One But Many

A poem by Nora Pembroke

'At last he is dead'
So the wondering, horror-struck neighbours said,
A skilful touch of his knife
Has cut the thread of a wasted life
He has reached the end of the downward road,
And rushed unbidden to meet his God,
Over every duty past every tie,
Unwarned, unhindered, he rushed along,
Through the wild license of sin. and wrong,
And into the silent eternity

Relax thy anguished watch, O wife
And fold thy hands--and yet--and yet,
After all the tears which thou hast wept,
Through nights when happier mortals slept,
Thou only wilt weep with fond regret,
Over the corpse of the hopeless dead
For the cause accursed, of drink he has bled,
For that cause he lived and suffered and died
Many deaths in one horrible life,--
The death of his honour, the death of his pride,
On that altar he sacrificed child and wife
Hope, liberty, purity, more than life
Lifes life, God's image, he crushed and killed,
Tore and defaced, wasted and spoiled,
Uncurbed in passion, iron willed,
For this long years he has laboured and toiled,
Devoted his talents, his time his breath,
And at the last his blood he has shed
Truly the wages of sin is death

He was once a babe on a mother s breast,
Tenderly nourished, cared for, caressed
Watched with a mother's love and pride
Dreams of the future warm and bright,
High hopes ambitions in rainbow light
Clustered around him a fairy swarm
Of tender fancies sweet and warm,
As she hung over his cradle bed,
In all this world there's none so bright,
So clever as mother's heart s delight
My child of promise," she proudly said

Oh would to God that he then had died
Died when the anguish of heartstrings torn,
The sudden stilling of childish laughter,
The awful vacance that fills the place
Of the soft, warm touch, of the dear, dear face,
Of the sweet dead child that the heart gropes after
For God's own voice to the mourner saith,
"Be still, I am God, there is hope in his death'

Alas! for the woe that under the sun
Can find no comfort! this child lived on.
What must be his mother's sorrow and sin,
If she held the glass to his infant lips
Taught him the taste of sweetened gin,
As a cure for every childish pain,
To be tried and tampered with once and again
If she taught him to worship at fashion's shrine,
In its magic circle to look on wine.
To pour it sparkling in ruby light,
The adder's sting the serpent's bite,
Came to him at last among evil men,
But he once was a boy,
A mother's joy,
Clever and gifted with tongue and pen,
The cup of temptation
Was inspiration,
Oh would to God he had died even then
The mother's tears shed over the slain,
Had then had hope in their bitter pain

O mothers, stronger than life is love
And your love is most like God's above,
And power likest God's to you is given,
With the greatest trust that is under heaven
He gives to your hands to have and to hold
More precious than rubies, better than gold
God's little children to teach and to train,
And to lead them upward to Him again
God keep you and save you from earning the curse
That shadows the life with hopeless remorse
He once was a lover an innocent maid
Into his keeping gave up her life,
Into his hand her own she laid
For better, for worse
As a blessing, a curse,
Took on her the sacred name of wife,
And stood at her post through all these years
Of sorrow and sin, of anguish and tears
There have been martyrs for God and right,
Passed through blood and fire into endless light
Count all the martyrs to right that died
Since Abel's blood to Jehovah cried
There are but few in that shining throng
Compared to the martyrs of sin and wrong
Count not that woman's life by years,
Count by the dropping of heart-wrung tears
To the common lot of toil and care,
That dims the eye and the heart strings wring,
He added, of woe that none could share,
Whole ages of sorrow and suffering

She bore her torture for duty's sake,
Firm as saint in the tower and at the stake,
Bore want and woe, and his evil name,
For him who for years was dead to shame
She saw his brood about her knee
Into an evil lot they were born
To bear for his sin the cruel scorn
Of the world unthinking, hard and cold
Prematurely saddened, early old,
They never knew home as a place of rest,
Except when their home was the mother's breast,
And worse than all she had to see
Them taught the secrets of sin and woe,
Which happier children never know
Alas! that such a thing should be
Her darlings were made to pass through the fire
To the Moloch of vice and sinful desire,
The father's example of life and tongue
Brought the knowledge of evil to them while young,
And in sorrow and shame,
That none may name,
In strife and sin all tempest-tost
The innocence God gives to babes was lost
All is over, nought's left but dishonoured clay,
But the evil men do lives longer than they.
Of a truth the saddest for tongue or pen
Are these words o'er a ruin--"He might have been,"
And sadder the words in jest set free
"This is; but alas! it should not be."
He has passed into darkness who lived in vain;
But what shall their future portion be,
Who, passing by on the other side,
Themselves from the curse secure and free,
No plan of relief or rescue tried?
Or worse, made profit out of his pain,
And lured him on to his death for gain?

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