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

Frances Laughton Mace (1836–1899)

A Burmese Parable

WITH look of woe and garments rent,

She walked as one whose strength is spent,

And in her arms a burden dread

She bore,—an infant cold and dead.

Men stood beside, and women wept,

As through the gathering throng she crept,

And fell at last, with covered face,

Before the Buddha’s seat of grace.

With startled gaze each Brahmin priest

Drew near: at once the Master ceased

His golden words; for he could read

The suffering spirit’s inmost need,

And give with subtlest skill the cure

Which best that spirit could endure.

He bade her speak. She faltered wild,

“They told me thou couldst heal my child!”

“It may be so, but thou must bring

To me this simple offering,—

Some seeds of mustard which have grown

By homes where death was never known,

Nor tears have fallen beside the grave

Of mother, brother, child, or slave.

Go to the happy and the free,

And of their store bring thou to me.”

She rose in haste, and all that day

She went her melancholy way.

No door was shut, for pitying eyes

Her quest beheld in kind surprise;

But every stranger answering said,

“We too have looked upon the dead,—

We too have wept beside the grave

Of mother, brother, child, or slave.”

At set of sun alone she stood

Within the vine-entangled wood,

And uttered sadly, “I perceive

That every living heart must grieve.

Brief happiness had made me blind

To common griefs of humankind;

My eyes are open now to see

That all the world has wept with me.”

Beneath the branches sweet and wild

She made a cradle for her child,

And watched until she saw afar

The village lamps, star after star,

Gleam, burn, and fade. “Our lives,” she said,

“Like lamps of night will soon be fled

Sleep soft, my child, until I come

To share thy rest and find thy home.”