On a Babe by Douglas B. W. Sladen

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What is the secret of this bud
Of pink and simple babyhood
That thrusts its head above the soil
Into this world of joy and toil?

We presage little of the shoot
That rises from the hidden root
But that leaf and stalk will follow
With the coming of the swallow.

And what its aftergrowth will be --
Whether flower or stately tree --
Only the Power that made it knows;
We can but watch it as it grows,

And, noting each unfolded leaf
The bud detaches from its sheaf,
Call back those of trees and flowers
Which we knew in other hours,

Saying that sweet carnation
Had such a budding as this one,
And yon fair lily in its youth
Just such a soft upspringing growth;  

Or that the pine so tall and strong
Grow in this wise when it was young ;
And the oak that rules the wildwood
Was as this one in its childhood.

What will this bud be--sweet or strong
As the years hasten it along?
Will it be delicate and fair,
Or rear its branches in the air?

Will it be rifled of its bloom
To decorate a gilded room?  
Or with brood trunk scorning danger
Front the rising tempest's anger?

I would that this small bud you see
Just as this moss-rose bud should be --
As sweet to scent, as full of dew,
As beautiful in shape and hue;

And as the lily free from stain,
And fresh as hedgerows after rain;
As the daisy ever-blooming,  
Radiant and unpresuming.

I would that this small bud you see
Should grow into a linden-tree;
Should put forth tender leaves in spring,
And after burst out blossoming;

Should lend in summer heat a shade
Beneath its leafy colonnade,
And each year send out fresh branches  
In green fragrant avalanches:

Or, if its fibre stouter be,
That it turn out a brave oak-tree,
Late in the leaf, in increase slow,
But match for all the winds that blow;   
Standing in green old age alone          
When all its mates are dead and gone;
Type of constancy and greatness,
Grander for its very lateness.

First published in The Queenslander, 31 December 1881

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 31, 2012 9:10 AM.

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