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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

My Child

By John Pierpont (1785–1866)

[From Airs of Palestine, and Other Poems. 1840.—Poems. 1854.]

I CANNOT make him dead!

His fair sunshiny head

Is ever bounding round my study-chair;

Yet, when my eyes, now dim

With tears, I turn to him,

The vision vanishes—he is not there!

I walk my parlor floor,

And through the open door

I hear a footfall on the chamber stair;

I’m stepping toward the hall

To give the boy a call;

And then bethink me that—he is not there!

I thread the crowded street;

A satchelled lad I meet,

With the same beaming eyes and colored hair:

And, as he’s running by,

Follow him with my eye,

Scarcely believing that—he is not there!

I know his face is hid

Under the coffin-lid;

Closed are his eyes; cold is his forehead fair;

My hand that marble felt;

O’er it in prayer I knelt;

Yet my heart whispers that—he is not there!

I cannot make him dead!

When passing by the bed,

So long watched over with parental care,

My spirit and my eye

Seek it inquiringly,

Before the thought comes that—he is not there!

When, at the cool, gray break

Of day, from sleep I wake,

With my first breathing of the morning air

My soul goes up, with joy,

To Him who gave my boy,

Then comes the sad thought that—he is not there!

When at the day’s calm close,

Before we seek repose,

I’m with his mother, offering up our prayer,

Whate’er I may be saying,

I am, in spirit, praying

For our boy’s spirit, though—he is not there!

Not there! Where, then, is he?

The form I used to see

Was but the raiment that he used to wear;

The grave, that now doth press

Upon that cast-off dress,

Is but his wardrobe locked;—he is not there!

He lives! In all the past

He lives; nor, to the last,

Of seeing him again will I despair;

In dreams I see him now;

And, on his angel brow,

I see it written, “Thou shalt see me there!”

Yes, we all live to God!

Father, thy chastening rod

So help us, thine afflicted ones, to bear,

That, in the spirit-land,

Meeting at thy right hand,

’Twill be our heaven to find that—he is there!