Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The Children

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

The Children

By Charles Monroe Dickinson (1842–1924)

[Born in Lowville, Lewis Co., N. Y., 1842. Died in Binghamton, N. Y., 1924. The Children, and Other Verses. 1889.]

WHEN the lessons and tasks are all ended,

And the school for the day is dismissed,

The little ones gather around me,

To bid me good night and be kissed;

O, the little white arms that encircle

My neck in their tender embrace!

O, the smiles that are halos of heaven,

Shedding sunshine of love on my face!

And when they are gone, I sit dreaming

Of my childhood, too lovely to last;—

Of joy that my heart will remember,

When it wakes to the pulse of the past,

Ere the world and its wickedness made me

A partner of sorrow and sin,

When the glory of God was about me,

And the glory of gladness within.

All my heart grows as weak as a woman’s,

And the fountains of feeling will flow,

When I think of the paths steep and stony,

Where the feet of the dear ones must go,—

Of the mountains of sin hanging o’er them,

Of the tempest of fate blowing wild;—

O, there’s nothing on earth half so holy

As the innocent heart of a child!

They are idols of hearts and of households;

They are angels of God in disguise;

His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses,

His story still shines in their eyes;

Those truants from home and from heaven,—

They have made me more manly and mild;

And I know now how Jesus could liken

The kingdom of God to a child.

I ask not a life for the dear ones,

All radiant, as others have done,

But that life may have just enough shadow

To temper the glare of the sun;

I would pray God to guard them from evil,

But my prayer would bound back to myself;—

Ah! a seraph may pray for a sinner,

But a sinner must pray for himself.

The twig is so easily bended,

I have banished the rule and the rod;

I have taught them the goodness of knowledge,

They have taught me the goodness of God:

My heart is the dungeon of darkness

Where I shut them for breaking a rule;

My frown is sufficient correction;

My love is the law of the school.

I shall leave the old house in the autumn,

To traverse its threshold no more;

Ah, how shall I sigh for the dear ones

That meet me each morn at the door!

I shall miss the “good nights” and the kisses,

And the gush of their innocent glee,

The group on the green, and the flowers

That are brought every morning to me.

I shall miss them at morn and at even,

Their song in the school and the street;

I shall miss the low hum of their voices,

And the tread of their delicate feet.

When the lessons of life are all ended,

And death says, “The school is dismissed!”

May the little ones gather around me,

To bid me good night and be kissed!