Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A MOTHER'S DREAM, by MATHILDE BLIND

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A MOTHER'S DREAM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The snow was falling thick and fast
Last Line: All's well! All's well!
Alternate Author Name(s): Lake, Claude
Subject(s): Mothers


THE snow was falling thick and fast
On Christmas Eve;
Across the heath the distant blast
Wailed wildly like a soul in grief,
As waste soul or a windy leaf
Whirled round and round without reprieve,
And lost at last.


Lisa woke shivering from her sleep
At break of day,
And felt her flesh begin to creep.
"My child, my child!" she cried; "now may
Our blessed Lord, whose hand doth stay
The wild-fowl on their trackless way,
Thee guard and keep."


"Dreams! dreams!" she to herself did say,
And shook with fright.
"I saw her plainly where I lay
Fly past me like a flash of light;
Fly out into the wintry night,
Out in the snow as snowy white,
Far, far away.


"Her cage hung empty just above
Your chair, ma mie;
Empty as is my heart of love
Since you, my child, dwell far from me --
Dwell in the convent over sea;
All of you left to love Marie,
Your darling dove."


Hark to that fond, familiar coo!
Oh, joy untold!
It falls upon her heart like dew.
There safely perching as of old,
The dove is calling through the cold
And ghastly dawn o'er wood and wold,
"Coo-whoo! Coo-whoo!"


The snow fell softly, flake by flake,
This Christmas Day,
And whitened every bush and brake;
And o'er the hills so ashen gray
The wind was wailing far away,
Was wailing like a child astray
Whose heart must break.


"I miss my child," she wailed; "I miss
Her everywhere!
That's why I have such dreams as this.
I miss her step upon the stair,
I miss her laughter in the air,
I miss her bonnie face and hair,
And oh -- her kiss!


"Christmas! Last Christmas, oh how fleet,
With lark-like trill,
She danced about on fairy feet!
Her eyes clear as a mountain rill,
Where the blue sky is lingering still;
Her rosebud lips the dove would bill
For something sweet.


"My dove! my dear! my undefiled!
Oh, heavy doom!
My life has left me with the child.
She was a sunbeam in my room,
She was a rainbow on the gloom,
She was the wild rose on a tomb
Where weeds run wild.


"And yet -- 'tis better thus! 'Tis best,
They tell me so.
Yes, though my heart is like a nest,
Whence all the little birds did go --
And empty nest that's full of snow --
Let me take all the wail and woe,
So she be blest.


"Let me take all the sin and shame,
And weep for two,
That she may bear no breath of blame.
'Sin -- sin!' they say; what sin had you,
Pure as the dawn upon the dew?
Child -- robbed of a child's rightful due,
Her father's name.


"I gave her life to live forlorn!
Oh, let that day
Be darkness wherein I was born!
Let not God light it, let no ray
Shine on it; let it turn away
Its face, because my sin must weigh
Her down with shame.


"I? I? Was I the sinner? I,
Not he, they say,
Who told me, looking eye in eye,
We'd wed far North where grand and gray
His fair ancestral castle lay,
Amid the woods of Darnaway --
And told a lie.


"But I was young; and in my youth
I simply thought
That English gentlemen spoke truth,
Even to a Norman maid, who wrought
The blush-rose shells the tide had brought
To fairy toys which children bought
Before my booth.


"'Those fairy fingers,' he would say,
'With shell-pink nails,
Shall shame the pearls of Darnaway!'
And in his yacht with swelling sails
We flew before the favouring gales,
Where leagues on leagues his woods and vales
Stretched dim and gray.


"Grim rose his castle o'er the wood;
Its hoary halls
Frowned o'er the Findhorn's roaring flood;
Where, winged with spray and water-galls,
The headlong torrent leaps and falls
In thunder through its tunnelled walls,
Streaked as with blood."


It all came back in one wild flash
Of cruel light,
And memory smote her like a lash: --
The foolish trust, the fond delight,
The helpless rage, the fevered flight,
The feet that dragged on through the night,
The torrent's splash.


The long, long sickness bred of lies
And lost belief;
The short, sharp pangs and shuddering sighs;
The new-born babe, that in her grief
Bore her wrecked spirit such relief
As the dove-carried olive-leaf
To Noah's eyes.


It all came back, and lit her soul
With lurid flame;
How she -- she -- she -- from whom he stole
Her virgin love and honest name --
Must, for the ailing child's sake, tame
Her pride, and take -- oh, shame of shame! --
His lordship's dole.


Like one whom grief hath driven wild,
She cried again,
"My snowdrop shall not be defiled,
Nor catch the faintest soil or stain,
Reared in the shadow of my pain!
How should a guilty mother train
A guiltless child?


"You shall be spotless, you!" said she,
"Whate'er my woe;
Even as the snow on yonder lea.
You shall be spotless!" Faint and low,
The wind in dying seemed to blow,
To breathe across the hills of snow,
"Marie! Marie!"


A voice was calling far away,
O'er fields and fords,
Across the Channel veiled and gray;
A voice was calling without words,
Touching her nature's deepest chords;
Drawing her, drawing her as with cords --
She might not stay.


Uprose the sun and still and round,
Shorn of his heat,
Glared bloodshot o'er the frosty ground,
As down the shuttered village street
Fast, fast walked Lisa, and her feet
Left black tracks in earth's winding-sheet
And made no sound.


Then on, on, by the iron way --
With whistling scream --
Piercing hard rocks like potter's clay,
She flashed as in a shifting dream
Through flying town, o'er flowing stream,
Borne on by mighty wings of steam,
Away, away.


A sound of wind, and in the air
The sea-gull's screech,
And waves lap-lapping everywhere;
A rush of ropes and volleyed speech,
And white cliffs sinking out of reach,
Then rising on the rival beach,


Above the ramparts on the hill,
Whence like a chart
It saw the low land spreading chill,
Within its cloistered walls apart
The Convent of the Sacred Heart
Rose o'er the noise of street and mart,
Serenely still.


Above the unquiet sea it rose,
A quiet nest,
Severed from earthly wants and woes.
There might the weary find his rest;
There might the pilgrim cease his quest;
There might the soul with guilt oppressed
Implore repose.


The day was done, the sun dropped low
Behind the mill
That swung within its blood-red glow;
And up the street and up the hill
Lisa walked fast and faster still,
Her sable shadow lengthening chill
Across the snow.


Hark! heavenly clear, with holy swell,
She hears elate
The greeting of the vesper bell,
And, knocking at the convent gate,
Sighs, "Here she prays God early and late;
Walled in from love, walled in from hate;
All's well! All's well!"


A sweat broke from her every pore,
And yet she smiled,
As, stumbling through the clanging door,
She faced a nun of aspect mild.
Like some starved wolf's her eyes gleamed wild:
"My child!" she gasped; "I want my child."
And nothing more.


The nun looked at her, shocked to see
The violent sway
Of love's unbridled agony;
And calmly queried on the way,
"Your child, Madame? What child, I pray?"
Still, still the mother could but say,
"Marie! Marie!"


The nun in silence bowed her head,
And then aloud,
"Christ Jesus knows our needs," she said.
"Madame, far from the sinful crowd,
The maiden to the Lord you vowed;
There is no safeguard like a shroud --
Your child is dead.


"Upon the night Christ saw the light
She passed away,
As snow will when the sun shines bright.
We heard her moaning where she lay,
'Come, mother, come, while yet you may;'
Then like a dove, at break of day,
Her soul took flight."


As from a blow the mother fell,
No moan made she;
They bore her to the little cell:
There in her coffin lay Marie,
Spotless as snow upon the lea,
Beautiful exceedingly:
All's well! All's well!

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