by: John Pierpont (1785-1866)

      CANNOT make him dead!
      His fair sunshiny head
      Is ever bounding round my study chair;
      Yet, when my eyes, now dim
      With tears, I turn to him,
      The vision vanishes -- he is not there!
      I walk my parlor floor,
      And through the open door
      I hear a footfall on the chamber stair;
      I'm stepping toward the hall
      to give the boy a call;
      And then bethink me that -- he is not there!
      I thread the crowded street;
      A satchelled lad I meet,
      With the same beaming eyes and colored hair:
      And, as he's running by,
      Follow him with my eye,
      Scarcely believing that -- he is not there!
      I know his face is hid
      Under the coffin-lid;
      Closed are his eyes; cold is his forehead fair;
      My hand that marble felt;
      O'er it in prayer I knelt;
      Yet my heart whispers that -- he is not there!
      I cannot make him dead!
      When passing by the bed,
      So long watched over with parental care,
      My spirit and my eye
      Seek it inquiringly,
      Before the thought comes that -- he is not there!
      When, at the cool, gray break
      Of day, from sleep I wake,
      With my first breathing of the morning air
      My soul goes up, with joy,
      To Him who gave my boy,
      Then comes the sad thought that -- he is not there!
      When at the day's calm close,
      Before we seek repose,
      I'm with his mother, offering up our prayer,
      Whate'er I may be saying,
      I am, in spirit, praying
      For our boy's spirit, though -- he is not there!
      Not there! Where, then, is he?
      The form I used to see
      Was but the raimant that he used to wear;
      The grave that now doth press
      Upon that cast-off dress,
      Is but his wardrobe locked; -- he is not there!
      He lives! In all the past
      He lives; nor, to the last,
      Of seeing him again will I despair;
      In dreams I see him now;
      And, on his angel brow,
      I see it written, "Thou shalt see me there!"
      Yes, we all live to God!
      Father, thy chastening rod
      So help us, thine afflicted ones, to bear,
      That, in the spirit-land,
      Meeting at thy right hand,
      'Twill be our heaven to find -- that he is there!

"My Child" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.




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