The Collected Poems of Dora Sigerson Shorter/The Question
Now here is where I fail to understand,
And put my question in all reverence,
On bended Imee with head most lowly bent,
To the All-High, All-Knowing Providence.
A girl whose fate had left her widowed poor,
with three small babes to shelter and direct.
Rose to the burden, glad in her own strength,
Of those young minds to be sole architect:
Up with the lark and singing with his song,
Of hope and love, watched by her helpless brood,
Toiled in the night when sdl but she had slept.
And wore her soft hands rough to bring them food.
At each sweet morn she opened wide the door
All to the sun, so that a golden ray
Would pierce the gloom, and like a torch of flame
Light up the bed where her three treasures lay.
Soft would she say, “See God's bright angel come
To bless my babes and chase away the night”:
Then would she bend, all hungry in her love.
To kiss each waking child with new delight.
Each tender body she would robe with pride
And awe unceasing at the beauties shown,
In dimpled limb and cheek and silken hair,
In all the loveliness she called her own.
Then with much laughter would she drive them forth
From her small room until her work was done;
Where she could watch from out the open door,
And smile upon them playing in the sun.
One golden morn as she drove forth her brood
Of pretty chicks to meet the coming day,
She pointed where a mother throstle clung
With three young birds upon a flow'ry spray.
And as she watched, from the blue air swept down
A hawk, who for a dreadful moment still
Swung in the air, as counting, one, two, three,
Which frightened fledgling he would pounce to kill,
Then struck. She heard the mother's scream of rage,
Who in her wild despair went flying high,
Then dropt again beside the cowering two
That still remained, with sad and piteous cry.
“So death might swoop,” the woman said, “on mine.”
She kissed each babe and there let fall a tear:
“My little ones, so tender and so weak.”
Into her heart there came an endless fear.
Was Hugh too pale, was Una's cheek too red,
Was Kathleen languid in her pretty play?
“O Lord! O Father! keep my darlings safe,”
She held the baby in her arms to pray.
And as she bent her down all full of prayer,
Above the nest that held her pretty brood:
To fold them close with her great mother's love
And fill each little mouth that called for food,
Then did the Hawk a moment hover high
Above the house, and swooping strike to kill
No tender fledgling—ah! less easy spared,
The mother fell to whet his cruel bill.
And I who passed and found the nest destroyed,
And heard the hungry and affrighted cry
Of each poor babe, beneath Death's cunning blow,
Who struck the whole because the one did die:
“Wherefore this strange destruction having made,
This contradiction of all Nature's ways?”
I put my question to High Providence,
And sUent knelt in pity and amaze.