A child was born in sin and shame,
Wronged by his very birth,
Without a home, without a name,
One over in the earth.
No wifely triumph he inspired,
Allayed no husband’s fear;
Intruder bare, whom none desired,
He had a welcome drear.
Heaven’s beggar, all but turned adrift
For knocking at earth’s gate,
His mother, like an evil gift,
Shunned him with sickly hate.
And now the mistress on her knee
The unloved baby bore,
The while the servant sullenly
Prepared to leave her door.
Her eggs are dear to mother-dove,
Her chickens to the hen;
All young ones bring with them their love,
Of sheep, or goats, or men!
This one lone child shall not have come
In vain for love to seek:
Let mother’s hardened heart be dumb,
A sister-babe will speak!
“Mother, keep baby—keep him so;
Don’t let him go away.”
“But, darling, if his mother go,
Poor baby cannot stay.”
“He’s crying, mother: don’t you see
He wants to stay with you?”
“No, child; he does not care for me.”
“Do keep him, mother—do.”
“For his own mother he would cry;
He’s hungry now, I think.”
“Give him to me, and let me try
If I can make him drink.”
“Susan would hurt him! Mother will
Let the poor baby stay?”
Her mother’s heart grew sore, but still
Baby must go away!
The red lip trembled; the slow tears
Came darkening in her eyes;
Pressed on her heart a weight of fears
That sought not ease in cries.
‘Twas torture—must not be endured!—
A too outrageous grief!
Was there an ill could not be cured?
She would find some relief!
All round her universe she pried:
No dawn began to break:
In prophet-agony she cried—
“Mother! when shall we wake?”
O insight born of torture’s might!—
Such grief can only seem.
Rise o’er the hills, eternal light,
And melt the earthly dream.
© George MacDonald