Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ENGLISH MOTHER, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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AN ENGLISH MOTHER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Every week of every season out of english ports go forth
Last Line: Until women's tears are reckoned in the budgets of your wars.
Subject(s): England; Mothers; English


EVERY week of every season out of English ports go forth,
White of sail or white of trail, East, or West, or South, or North,
Scattering like a glight of pigeons, half a hundred homesick ships,
Bearing half a hundred striplings--each with kisses on his lips
Of some silent mother, fearful lest she show herself too fond,
Giving him to bush or desert as one pays a sacred bond,
--Tell us, you who hide your heartbreak, which is sadder,
when all's done,
To repine an English mother, or to roam, an English son?

You who shared your babe's first sorrow when his cheek no
longer pressed
On the perfect, snow-and-roseleaf beauty of your mother-breast,
In the rigor of his nurture was your woman's mercy mute,
Knowing he was doomed to exile with the savage and the brute?
Did you school yourself to absence all his adolescent years,
That, though you be torn with parting, he should never see the tears?
Now his ship has left the offing for the many-mouthed sea,
This your guerdon, empty heart, by empty bed to bend the knee!
And if he be but the latest thus to leave your dwindling board,
Is a sorrow less for being added to a sorrow's hoard?
Is the mother-pain the duller that to-day his brothers stand,
Facing ambuscades of Congo, or alarms from Zululand?
Toil, where blizzards drift the snow like smoke across the
plains of death?
Faint, where tropic fens at morning steam with fever-laden breath?
Die, that in some distant river's veins the English blood may run--
Mississippi, Yangtze, Ganges, Nile, Mackenzie, Amazon?

Ah! you still must wait and suffer in a solitude untold
While your sisters of the nations call you passive, call you cold--
Still must scan the news of sailings, breathless search the
slow gazette,
Find the dreadful name ... and, later, get his blithe
farewell! And yet--
Shall the lonely hearthstone shame the legions who have died
Grudging not the price their country pays for progress and for pride?
--Nay; but, England, do not ask us thus to emulate your scars
Until women's tears are reckoned in the budgets of your wars.







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