Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Faëry Foster-Mother

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Cosmo Monkhouse b. 1840

The Faëry Foster-Mother

BRIGHT Eyes, Light Eyes! Daughter of a Fay!

I had not been a wedded wife a twelvemonth and a day,

I had not nurs’d my little one a month upon my knee,

When down among the blue-bell banks rose elfins three times three,

They gripp’d me by the raven hair, I could not cry for fear,

They put a hempen rope around my waist and dragg’d me here,

They made me sit and give thee suck as mortal mothers can,

Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! strange and weak and wan!

Dim Face, Grim Face! lie ye there so still?

Thy red, red lips are at my breast, and thou may’st suck thy fill;

But know ye, tho’ I hold thee firm, and rock thee to and fro,

‘T is not to soothe thee into sleep, but just to still my woe?

And know ye, when I lean so calm against the wall of stone,

‘T is when I shut my eyes and try to think thou art mine own?

And know ye, tho’ my milk be here, my heart is far away,

Dim Face, Grim Face! Daughter of a Fay!

Gold Hair, Cold Hair! Daughter to a King!

Wrapp’d in bands of snow-white silk with jewels glittering,

Tiny slippers of the gold upon thy feet so thin,

Silver cradle velvet-lin’d for thee to slumber in,

Pygmy pages, crimson-hair’d, to serve thee on their knees,

To fan thy face with ferns and bring thee honey bags of bees,—

I was but a peasant lass, my babe had but the milk,

Gold Hair, Cold Hair! raimented in silk!

Pale Thing, Frail Thing! dumb and weak and thin,

Altho’ thou ne’er dost utter sigh thou ’rt shadow’d with a sin;

Thy minnie scorns to suckle thee, thy minnie is an elf,

Upon a bed of rose’s-leaves she lies and fans herself;

And though my heart is aching so for one afar from me,

I often look into thy face and drop a tear for thee,

And I am but a peasant born, a lowly cotter’s wife,

Pale Thing, Frail Thing! sucking at my life!

Weak Thing, Meek Thing! take no blame from me,

Altho’ my babe may moan for lack of what I give to thee;

For though thou art a faëry child, and though thou art my woe,

To feel thee sucking at my breast is all the bliss I know;

It soothes me, tho’ afar away I hear my daughter call,

My heart were broken if I felt no little lips at all!

If I had none to tend at all, to be its nurse and slave,

Weak Thing, Meek Thing! I should shriek and rave!

Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! lying on my knee!

If soon I be not taken back unto mine own countree,

To feel my own babe’s little lips, as I am feeling thine,

To smooth the golden threads of hair, to see the blue eyes shine,—

I ’ll lean my head against the wall and close my weary eyes,

And think my own babe draws the milk with balmy pants and sighs,

And smile and bless my little one and sweetly pass away,

Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! Daughter of a Fay!