A Common Grief by Henry Parkes

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A simple Irish maiden, with wild heart
Exuberant of natural playfulness,
Oft, holding in her arms a sweet-eyed child,
Sung an old peasant dirge, in feigned distress,
As to surprise the lovely face that smiled
Into a transient shade of grief, that then  
She might, with fuller fondness, see it start
Back into light and joy, when she again
Looked up herself, from her sad-acted part.
"I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!" the maiden sung,    
And her bright face put on a mimic sorrow,
"I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!" until that young
And pensive listener knew how she could borrow
The tones and mask of mourning, and so grew
Expectant of the mockery ever new,
And learnt to lisp, with a pretended pity,
The silly burden of the maiden's ditty.

   And while her third blue summer's light
      Yet warmed that infant's brow,
   While yet the earth with flowers was bright,
   And nature seemed to know no blight,
      A sickness laid her low.

   A cruel and insidious sickness
      Laid low that gentle child --
   Low in her spirit's suffering meekness,
   Low in her voice of softening weakness,
      And eyes that patient smiled.

   Low in her mother's dear embrace!   
      And, with soft-drooping eye,
   She murmured, in that resting-place,
   Beneath that loving, watching face,
      "I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!"

   She feebly takes her favourite flowers,
      From sister's hand and brother's;
   And feebly, as our grief o'erpowers
   Our hearts, she lifts her eyes to ours,
      Her father's and her mother's.

   But not so quickly droop and fade
      The flowers she holds as she; 
   And morning's light, and evening's shade,
   Where now her little bed is made,
      But mark where it will be.

   The night of fitful moanings's past,
      The day of pain is done; 
   We see the die of death is cast --
   We feel that she must go, at last --
      We say aloud, "She's gone!"   

   There is a wealth for memory still,--
      Her quiet sojourn here --
   Her temper meek, her gentle will --
   The flowers of peace no worm may kill,
      Which made her life so dear! 

   But fancy, in her limnings rare,
      Will hear the haunting cry
   Steal o'er that crown of sunny hair,
   Those sweet blue eyes, that forehead fair,
      "I'll die, I'll die, I'll die!"

First published
in The Empire, 3 April 1854;
and later in
Murmurmings of the Stream by Henry Parkes, 1857.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 3, 2012 9:05 AM.

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