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

May Riley Smith (1842?–1927)

Tired Mothers

A LITTLE elbow leans upon your knee,—

Your tired knee that has so much to bear;

A child’s dear eyes are looking lovingly

From underneath a thatch of tangled hair.

Perhaps you do not heed the velvet touch

Of warm, moist fingers holding yours so tight;

You do not prize this blessing overmuch:

You almost are too tired to pray, to-night.

But it is blessedness! A year ago

I did not see it as I do to-day:

We are so dull and thankless, and so slow

To catch the sunshine till it slips away.

And now it seems surpassing strange to me,

That while I wore the badge of motherhood,

I did not kiss more oft and tenderly

The little child that brought me only good.

And if, some night, when you sit down to rest,

You miss this elbow from your tired knee,

This restless, curly head from off your breast,

This lisping tongue that chatters constantly;

If from your own the dimpled hands had slipped,

And ne’er would nestle in your palm again;

If the white feet into their grave had tripped,—

I could not blame you for your heartache then.

I wonder so that mothers ever fret

At little children clinging to their gown;

Or that the footprints, when the days are wet,

Are ever black enough to make them frown.

If I could find a little muddy boot,

Or cap or jacket, on my chamber floor;

If I could kiss a rosy, restless foot,

And hear it patter in my home once more;

If I could mend a broken cart to-day,

To-morrow make a kite to reach the sky,—

There is no woman in God’s world could say

She was more blissfully content than I.

But, ah! the dainty pillow next my own

Is never rumpled by a shining head;

My singing birdling from its nest has flown:

The little boy I used to kiss is dead!