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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Cradle Song

By Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–1881)

From ‘Bittersweet: A Poem’

WHAT is the little one thinking about?

Very wonderful things, no doubt!

Unwritten history!

Unfathomed mystery!

Yet he laughs and cries, and eats and drinks,

And chuckles and crows, and nods and winks,

As if his head were as full of kinks

And curious riddles as any sphinx!

Warped by colic, and wet by tears,

Punctured by pins, and tortured by fears,

Our little nephew will lose two years;

And he’ll never know

Where the summers go;—

He need not laugh, for he’ll find it so!

Who can tell what a baby thinks?

Who can follow the gossamer links

By which the mannikin feels his way

Out from the shore of the great unknown,

Blind, and wailing, and alone,

Into the light of day?

Out from the shore of the unknown sea,

Tossing in pitiful agony;

Of the unknown sea that reels and rolls,

Specked with the barks of little souls,—

Barks that were launched on the other side,

And slipped from heaven on an ebbing tide!

What does he think of his mother’s eyes?

What does he think of his mother’s hair?

What of the cradle-roof that flies

Forward and backward through the air?

What does he think of his mother’s breast,

Bare and beautiful, smooth and white,—

Seeking it ever with fresh delight,

Cup of his life and couch of his rest?

What does he think when her quick embrace

Presses his hand and buries his face

Deep where the heart-throbs sink and swell

With a tenderness she can never tell,

Though she murmur the words

Of all the birds—

Words she has learned to murmur well?

Now he thinks he’ll go to sleep!

I can see the shadow creep

Over his eyes, in soft eclipse,

Over his brow, and over his lips,

Out to his little finger-tips!

Softly sinking, down he goes!

Down he goes! Down he goes!

See! He is hushed in sweet repose!