Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HERITAGE, by LAURA HELENA BROWER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

HERITAGE, by            
First Line: I see the gallows - o my son! My child!
Last Line: Not guilty, but the blighted fruit of war!
Subject(s): Birth; Conception; Death; Guilt; Mothers & Sons; Soldiers; Sons; Child Birth; Midwifery; Dead, The

I see the gallows—O my son! My child!—
That has been built for you. Not with these eyes,
These wretched, human eyes, so dimmed and worn
With tears unceasing since I learned your fate,
Your crime, your guilt, your plea, your punishment;
But with the clear, sad vision of a soul
Remorse-wrung for the sin that mothered yours.
O God! If they could know, could understand,
Those twelve men stern and silent, who condemned,
The judge whose icy voice pronounced your doom,
The careless, jeering crowd that thronged the court,—
O God! If they could know that mine, mine, mine,
The mother's sin, sinned ere your birth, has brought
You, it and it alone, to this dread place,
The gallows' foot!
For you were born—nay, more,—
Conceived when all the world was torn with war
And mad with hate that slaked its blood-thirst
In a brother's blood. And you were fatherless
From birth. The kind, wise voice, the strong firm hand.
The father's hand that would have led you up,
Far from the road on which your feet have strayed,
That voice was stilled, that hand lay cold in death.
Too well the deadly shrapnel's work was done.
And, helpless child, what could you do but drink
The poison of the hate that orphaned you,
And the worse poison of the hate within my breast
Alike for those whose work this was, and those
Who, weeping, came to tell me he was dead.
Ours, then, the guilt,—not yours, but his and mine—
That we had bidden you, you sinless child,
To come to birth in such unhallow'd hour.
How dared we love when all around was envy, greed
For power that mocked the rights of weaker men,
And bitter loathing finding vent in war?
How dared we love when love's sweet fruit must be
You guilty? No! No more than when
They laid you first upon my widowed breast,
And heard, unheeding, all the curses wild
I heaped on those who made you fatherless.

Not guilty, judge and jury, though condemned,
Not guilty, but the blighted fruit of war!

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