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

Amélie Rives Troubetzkoy (1863–1945)

Unto the Least of These Little Ones

O CHILDREN’S eyes unchildlike! Children’s eyes

That make pure, hallowed age seem young indeed—

Wan eyes that on drear horrors daily feed;

Learned deep in all that leaves us most unwise!

Poor wells, beneath whose troubled depths Truth lies,

Drowned, drowned, alas! So does my sad heart bleed

When I remember you; so does it plead

And strive within my breast—as one who cries

For torture of her first-born—that the day,

The long, bright day, seems thicker sown for me

With eyes of children than the heavens at night

With stars on stars. To watch you is to pray

That you may some day see as children see

When man, like God, hath said, “Let there be light.”

Dear Christ, thou hadst thy childhood ere thy cross;

These, bearing first their cross, no childhood know,

But, aged with toil, through countless horrors grow

To age more horrible. Rough locks atoss

Above drink-reddened eyes, like Southern moss

That drops its tangles to the marsh below;

No standard dreamed or real by which to show

The piteous completeness of their loss;

No rest, no hope, no Christ: the cross alone

Borne on their backs by day, their bed by night,

Their ghastly plaything when they pause to weep,

Their threat of torture do they dare to moan;

A darkness ever dark across their light,

A weight that makes a waking of their sleep.

Father, who countest such poor birds as fall,

Count thou these children fallen from their place;

Lift and console them of thy pity’s grace,

And teach them that to suffer is not all;

Hedge them about with love as with a wall,

Give them in dreams the knowledge of thy face,

And wipe away such stains as sin doth trace,

Sending deliverance when brave souls call.

Deliver them, O Lord, deliver them!—

These children—as thy Son was once a child!

Make them even purer than before they fell,

Radiant in raiment clean from throat to hem;

For, Lord, till thou hast cleansed these sin-defiled,

Of such the kingdom, not of heaven, but hell.