TO A RIVER IN WHICH A CHILD WAS DROWNED
(Text of 1818)
Smiling river, smiling river,
On thy bosom sun-beams play;
Though they’re fleeting and retreating,
Thou hast more deceit than they.
In thy channel, in thy channel,
Choak’d with ooze and grav’lly stones,
Deep immersed and unhearsed,
Lies young Edward’s corse: his bones
Ever whitening, ever whitening,
As thy waves against them dash;
What thy torrent, in the current,
Swallow’d, now it helps to wash.
As if senseless, as if senseless
Things had feeling in this case;
What so blindly, and unkindly,
It destroy’d, it now does grace.
“Tell me what is the reason you
hang down your head;
From your blushes I plainly discern,
You have done something wrong. Ere you go up to bed,
I desire that the truth I may learn.”
“O mamma, I have long’d to
confess all the day
What an ill-natured thing I have done;
I persuaded myself it was only in play,
But such play I in future will shun.
“The least of the ladies that live
at the school,
Her whose eyes are so pretty and blue,
Ah! would you believe it? an April fool
I have made her, and call’d her so too.
“Yet the words almost choak’d
me; and, as I spoke low,
I have hopes that she might them not hear.
I had wrapt up some rubbish in paper, and so,
The instant the school-girls drew near,
“I presented it with a fine bow
to the child,
And much her acceptance I press’d;
When she took it, and thank’d me, and gratefully smil’d,
I never felt half so distress’d.
“No doubt she concluded some sweetmeats
For the paper was white and quite clean,
And folded up neatly, as if with great care.
O what a rude boy I have been!
“Ever since I’ve been thinking
how vex’d she will be,
Ever since I’ve done nothing but grieve.
If a thousand young ladies a walking I see,
I will never another deceive.”
Come my little Robert near—
Fie! what filthy hands are here—
Who that e’er could understand
The rare structure of a hand,
With its branching fingers fine,
Work itself of hands divine,
Strong, yet delicately knit,
For ten thousand uses fit,
Overlaid with so clear skin
You may see the blood within,
And the curious palm, disposed
In such lines, some have supposed
You may read the fortunes there
By the figures that appear—
Who this hand would chuse to cover
With a crust of dirt all over,
Till it look’d in hue and shape
Like the fore-foot of an Ape?