So young, and yet so worn with pain!
No sign of youth upon that stooping head,
Save weak half-curls, like beechen boughs that spread
With up-turned edge to catch the hurrying rain;
Such little lint-white locks, as wound
About a mother’s finger long ago,
When he was blither, not more dear, for woe
Was then far off, and other sons stood round.
And she has wept since then with him
Watching together, where the ocean gave
To her child’s counted breathings wave for wave,
Whilst the heart fluttered, and the eye grew dim.
And when the sun and day breeze fell,
She kept with him the vigil of despair;
Knit hands for comfort, blended sounds of prayer,
Saw him at dawn face death, and take farwell;
Saw him grow holier through his grief,
The early grief that lined his withering brown,
As one by one her stars were quenched. And now
He that so mourned can play, though life is brief;
Not gay, but gracious; plain of speech,
And freely kindling under beauty’s ray,
He dares to speak of what he loves; to-day
He talked of art, and led me on to teach,
And glanced, as poets glanced, at pages
Full of bright Florence and warm Umbrian skies;
Not slighting modern greatness, for the wise
Can sort the treasures of the circling ages;
Not echoing the sickly praise,
Which boys repeat, who hear a father’s guest
Prate of the London show-rooms; what is best
He firmly lights upon, as birds on sprays;
All honest, and all delicate:
No room for flattery, no smiles that ask
For tender pleasantries, no looks that mask
The genial impulses of love and hate.
Oh bards that call to bank and glen,
Ye bid me go to nature to be healed!
And lo! a purer fount is here revealed:
My lady-nature dwells in hearts of men.
A Study of Boyhood