James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

May 29

A Little Dead Prince

By Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826–1887)

  • This little son of Princess Alice of Hesse was killed by a fall from a window on May 29, 1873.

  • OVER the happy mother’s bed

    Gambol three children, loving as gay;

    Ernest, strong, and delicate Fritz,

    Pretty baby Victoria.

    Two little princes, sans sword, sans crown,

    One little princess, infant-sweet,

    In the mother’s breast, as rich, as full

    As any mother’s in lane or street,

    They grew, three roses, love-rooted deep—

    Filling with perfume all their own,

    The palace air—oft sharp and keen,

    In the lonely heights too near a throne.

    The palace windows stand open wide,

    The harmless windows, and through them pass

    May winds, to the palace-children dear,

    As to cottage children upon the grass;

    Out through the door bold Ernest runs,

    The mother follows with anxious mind,

    Fearless of fate, for a minute’s space

    Leaving the other two behind.

    Grand on the bed,—a mimic queen,

    Tiny Victoria gravely sits;

    While grasping closely his darling toy,

    Up to the window climbs merry Fritz;

    It drops—his treasure! He leans and looks,

    Twenty feet down to the stony road—

    Hear ye that shriek from the mother’s lips?

    Hast thou no mercy, O God, O God?

    One ghastly moment he hangs in air

    Like a fledgling bird from the warm nest thrown,

    With innocent eyes of mere surprise—

    Then falls—and the bright young life is done.

    Mother, poor mother, try to see

    Not the skeleton hand that thrust him there

    Out of sunshiny life into silent death,

    But the waiting angels in phalanx fair.

    O try to think that the earth’s hard breast

    Was the bosom of God, which took him in,

    Safe from the clutch of the years unknown

    Full of sorrow, sickness, peril or sin:

    O hear far off the low sound of tears

    Dropping from many an eye like mine,

    As we look on our living children sweet,

    And our English mother-hearts bleed for thine.

    God comfort thee! Under the robe of state

    That hides but heals not wounds throbbing wild,

    May’st thou feel the touch of one soft dead hand

    The child, that will always remain a child.

    And when long years shall have slipped away

    When gray hairs come and thy pulse beats slow,

    May one little face shine star-like out

    O’er the dim descent that all feet must go

    Mother, poor mother! ’neath warm June rain

    Bear to the grave this coffin small;

    Oft, our children living are children lost,

    But our children dead—yes we keep them all.