She heard the calling ewes
And the lambs answer alas!
She heard her heart’s blood drip in the night,
As the ewes’ milk on the grass.
Her tears that burnt like fire
So bitter and slow ran down
She could not think on the new-washed children
Playing by Mary’s gown.
Oh, who is this comes in
Over her threshold stone?
And why is the old dog wild with joy
Who all day long made moan?
This fair little radiant ghost,
Her one little son of seven,
New ’scaped from the band of merry children
In the nurseries of Heaven.
He was all clad in white
Without a speck or stain;
His curls had a ring of light,
That rose and fell again.
“Now come with me, my own mother,
And you shall have great ease,
For you shall see the lost children
Gathered at Mary’s knees.”
Oh, lightly sprang she up
Nor waked her sleeping man,
And hand in hand with the little ghost
Through the dark night she ran.
She is gone swift as a fawn,
As a bird homes to its nest,
She has seen them lie, the sleepy children,
’Twixt Mary’s arm and breast.
At morning she came back;
Her eyes were strange to see.
She will not fear the long journey,
However long it be.
As she goes in and out
She sings unto hersel’;
For she has seen the mother’s children
And knows that it is well.
The dead son’s mother sat and wept
And her live son plucked at her gown,
“Oh, mother, long is the watch we’ve kept!”
But she beat the small hands down.
The little live son he clung to her knee—
And frightened his eyes and dim—
“Have ye never, my mother, a word for me?”
But she turned her face from him,
Saying, “Oh and alack, mine own dead son,
Could I know but the path aright,
How fast and how fast my feet would run
Through the way o’ Death to-night!”
Saying, “Oh and alack, for thy empty place
And the ache in my heart to hide!”
The little live son has touched her face,
But she thrust his hands aside.
The mother hath laid her down and wept
In the midnight’s chill and gloom;
In the hour ere dawn while the mother slept
The ghost came in the room.
And the little live son hath called his name
Or ever he passed the door,
“Oh, brother, brother, ’tis well ye came,
For our mother’s grief is sore!
“Oh, brother, brother, she weeps for thee
As a rain that beats all day,
But me she pushes from off her knee
And turneth her eyes away.”
And the little dead son he spake again,
“My brother, the dead have grace
Though they lay them low from the sight of men
With a white cloth on their face.
“Oh, brother, the dead have gifts of love,
Though lonely and low they lie,
By my mother’s love do I speak and move
And may not wholly die.”