The Death of a Child

I sat beside the pillow of a child, —
His dying pillow, — and I watched the ebb
Of his last fluttering breath. All tranquilly
He passed away, and not a murmur came
From his white lips. A film crept o'er his eye,
But did not all conceal it, and at times
The darkness stole away, and he looked out
Serenely, with an innocent smile, as if
Pleased with an infant's toy; and there was then
A very delicate flush upon his cheek,
Like the new edging of a damask-rose,
When first the bud uncloses. As I watched,
I caught at these awakenings better hope,
And, yielding to the longing of my heart,
Fancied I saw him opening from a trance,
And with a gentle effort shaking off
The oppression of a dream. A moment more,
And the film mantled o'er his eye again,
And the faint redness left his faltering lips,
And backward to its centre in the heart
The crimson current rallied, leaving him
Like a chill statue, icy cold and pale.
He was my only one, and I had long
Loved him for all his innocent playfulness,
And his endearing fondness. He would hang
Whole days around me, watching all I did,
And questioning each particular act, as if
He could not rest till he had known the why
Of every word and motion. I indulged him,
And in that kind indulgence found his love
Grow every hour, till I was as his life,
And he was more than mine. Well pleased I saw
His opening faculties, and well I knew
His curious bent betokened better things
In a maturer age; but when he seemed
Rosy, and full of health, and o'er-informed
With life's young buoyancy, a hidden blight
Nipped him, and he decayed. He sank away
With scarce a visible token, like a breath
Of summer wind, when it has spent itself,
And blows so faintly, that the feathery leaves
Of the mimosa only tell of it,
All others resting as if nothing stirred
In the wide air. I watched him eagerly,
And I could only see that he decayed,
And soon must die. With a consenting stillness
My heart grew calm, and while his dying breath
Stole from his lips so faintly, not a murmur
Met the deep listening ear; I felt a power,
Too peaceful for an earthly emanation,
Come with a tranquillizing influence o'er me
And soothe me to the trial. As I looked,
The quivering of his lids, that lay like leaves
Of alabaster on his darkened eyes,
And the small trembling of his parted lips,
Curled outward like the margent of a lily,
Suddenly died away, and all was still.
Life was no more. I knew it, and at once
The utter loneliness of sorrow sank
Deep, deep within me, and awhile I sat
Without a tear. The stream was frozen up
And would not flow; but soon relenting nature
Gave way, and a full burst of passionate weeping
Flowed with a sudden gush, that quite unmanned me,
Then ebbing silently, it left me calm.
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