Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FIRST BREAK, by ALEXANDER ANDERSON

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THE FIRST BREAK, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The first break in our happy household hearth
Last Line: Close by his rest, they thunder day by day.
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): Accidents; Death - Children; Fathers & Sons; Railroads; Death - Babies; Railways; Trains

THE first break in our happy household hearth
Was my broad manly son, and far away
He sleeps, while by the churchyard's holy earth
Throb the great engines onward day by day.

Ah me! and as I hear in this strange land
Their whistle from the distant town, I feel
As if I saw him slipping foot and hand,
And lying crush'd beneath the heartless wheel.

Then I live o'er again that awful night,
When to my door the whisper'd message came,
That made my heart leap up with sudden fright,
And all the silence tremble with his name.

A splash of blood fell everywhere I look'd,
Turning my tears to the same purple hue,
While in me rose dread fears my heart rebuked,
As all his vanish'd life rose up to view.

They brought him home, and up the little street
They bore him slowly to his early rest,
Laying the green sod, that of old his feet
Had trod in Sabbath days, upon his breast.

He slept, while in my heart I bore the pain
That still would live at times, until at last
My being's inner depths closed up again,
And gave but little token of the past.

Then came a change. I left that dear old spot
Where boyhood, manhood, all had come to me—
Came here among my sons, but never brought
My heart, for that was still beyond the sea.

Yet that one night before I left, I took
My stand beside his grave, and with hush'd breath,
Raised to the skies a father's silent look,
And took mute farewell of the dust beneath.

Then, turning as beneath some sudden blight,
I stagger'd down the churchyard big with fears,
Went down the street for the last time, the night
Around me hiding all my bitter tears.

I reach'd my lowly home, now cold and dim,
Sat by the hearth, a shadow on my mind,
Thinking how all around me seem'd like him
Whose dust cost such a pang to leave behind.

I sail'd. And now between me and that home
The ocean rolls with never-ceasing moan,
Checking all in me save my dreams, that roam
To bring old faces nearer to my own.

But still, whenever from the distant town
I hear the engine shriek, then far away
I wander to that grave, where up and down,
Close by his rest, they thunder day by day.

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