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Sunday, 27 November 2016

TO A FRIEND AFTER THE LOSS OF A CHILD

When on my ear your loss was knelled,

And tender sympathy upburst,

A little spring from memory welled

Which once had quenched my bitter thirst;


And I was fain to bear to you

A portion of its mild relief,

That it might be as cooling dew

To steal some fever from your grief.


After our child's untroubled breath

Up to the Father took its way,

And on our home the shade of death

Like a long twilight haunting lay,


And friends came round with us to weep

The little spirit's swift remove—

This story of the Alpine sheep

Was told to us by one we love.


They, in the valley's sheltering care,

Soon crop their meadow's tender prime;

And when the sod grows brown and bare,

The shepherd strives to make them climb


To any shelves of pasture green

That hang along the mountain side,

Where grass and flowers together lean,

And down through mists the sunbeams glide.

But nought can lure the timid things

The steep and rugged path to try,

Though sweet the shepherd call and sing,

And seared below the pastures lie—


Till in his arms their lambs he takes,

Along the dizzy verge to go;

When, heedless of the rifts and breaks,

They follow on o'er rock and snow.


And in those pastures lifted fair,

More dewy soft than lowland mead,

The shepherd drops his tender care,

And sheep and lambs together feed.


This parable, by Nature breathed,

Blew on me as the south wind free

O'er frozen brooks that float unsheathed

From icy thraldom to the sea.


A blissful vision through the night

Would all my happy senses sway,

Of the Good Shepherd on the height,

Or climbing up the starry way,


Holding our little lamb asleep,

And, like the burden of the sea,

Sounding that voice along the deep,

Saying, Arise, and follow me!

In that great cloister's stillness and seclusion,

By guardian angels led,

Safe from temptation, safe from sin's pollution,


He lives whom we call dead.


A poem by Mrs James Russell Lowell 

(Light on the Hidden Way, Ticknor & Company, Boston, 1886)