Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PATERNITY, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET

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PATERNITY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Not only women dream the future's child
Last Line: And all my being yearned: my son! My son!
Subject(s): Fathers & Sons

Not only women dream the future's child
Or children, though such deep desire they bear
For all the rich rewards of motherhood,
They smile in travail; though each girl ungrown
Who sings her dolls uncertain lullabies
Sees infant faces, feels soft arms that cling,
Hears deep within the nursery of her heart
A medley of small mirth adorable,
And, as she grows, mothers all things she loves,
Lacking the little head against her breast
And yearning for it, when she cannot know
Wherefore she yearns. Yet sometimes to a man,
Roughest and sternest though he be of men,
Shocked into strength and pondering from his young
Exuberance and easy joy, there comes
A longing that convulses all his soul;
And, standing in the wind against some dawn's
Prospect of racing cloud and lightening sky,
Or hard-beset in battle with the world
Deep in the city's stridence, or at pause
Before some new-discovered truth of life,
Unwittingly his hands go out to touch,
Hold off, and scan the youth of him that was,
Thrill to that brighter youth it is decreed
Each father shall inherit from his son.
And, if his hands grope blindly, so his heart,
To hear a young voice at his shoulder speak,
Know young, elastic strides beside his own,
Resolve the problems of an unsullied heart
Flaming to his for counsel. I scarce-grown
Into my manhood, hovering, hovering still
Over by boyhood (as the gravest, oldest
Of men doth yet, or is no man of men),
Felt my heart tense, and but a noon ago
Strove in quick torture -- for no woman's arms,
No woman's eyes, but for a questioning voice
Beside me, and a sturdy little step
In rhythm with mine. A phantom face looked up,
Trusting, round-eyed, alive with curious joy;
And all my being yearned: My son! My son!

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