Birth-day Verses
by Nathaniel Parker Willis
476670Birth-day VersesNathaniel Parker Willis

"The heart that we have lain near before our birth, is the only one that cannot forget that it has loved us." —Philip Slingsby

My birth-day!—Oh beloved mother!
  My heart is with thee o'er the seas.
I did not think to count another
  Before I wept upon thy knees—
Before this scroll of absent years
Was blotted with thy streaming tears.

My own I do not care to check.
  I weep—albeit here alone—
As if I hung upon thy neck,
  As if thy lips were on my own,
As if this full, sad heart of mine,
Were beating closely upon thine.

Four weary years! How looks she now?
  What light is in those tender eyes?
What trace of time has touch'd the brow
  Whose look is borrow'd of the skies
That listen to her nightly prayer?
How is she changed since he was there
Who sleeps upon her heart alway—
  Whose name upon her lips is worn—
For whom the night seems made to pray—
  For whom she wakes to pray at morn—
Whose sight is dim, whose heart-strings stir,
Who weeps these tears—to think of her!

I know not if my mother's eyes
  Would find me changed in slighter things;
I've wander'd beneath many skies,
  And tasted of some bitter springs;
And many leaves, once fair and gay,
From youth's full flower have dropp'd away—
But, as these looser leaves depart,
  The lessen'd flower gets near the core,
And, when deserted quite, the heart
  Takes closer what was dear of yore—
And yearns to those who loved it first—
The sunshine and the dew by which its bud was nursed.

Dear mother! dost thou love me yet?
  Am I remember'd in my home?
When those I love for joy are met,
  Does some one wish that I would come?
Thou dost—I am beloved of these!
  But, as the schoolboy numbers o'er
Night after night the Pleiades
  And finds the stars he found before—
As turns the maiden oft her token—
  As counts the miser aye his gold—
So, till life's silver cord is broken,
  Would I of thy fond love be told.
My heart is full, mine eyes are wet—
Dear mother! dost though love thy long-lost wanderer yet?

Oh! when the hour to meet again
  Creeps on—and, speeding o'er the sea,
My heart takes up its lengthen'd chain,
  And, link by link, draws nearer thee—
When land is hail'd, and, from the shore,
  Comes off the blessed breath of home,
With fragrance from my mother's door
  Of flowers forgotten when I come—
When port is gain'd, and, slowly now,
  The old familiar paths are pass'd,
And, entering—unconscious how—
  I gaze upon thy face at last,
And run to thee, all faint and weak,
And feel thy tears upon my cheek—
  Oh! if my heart break not with joy,
The light of heaven will fairer seem;
  And I shall grow once more a boy:
And, mother!—'twill be like a dream
  That we were parted thus for years—
  And once that we have dried our tears,
  How will the days seem long and bright—
To meet thee always with the morn,
  And hear thy blessing every night—
Thy "dearest," thy "first-born!"—
And be no more, as now, in a strange land, forlorn!

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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