I cannot sing, because when a child,
My mother often hushed me.
The others she allowed to sing,
No matter what their melody.
And since I’ve grown to manhood
All music I applaud,
But have no voice for singing,
So I write my songs to God.
I have ears and know the measures,
And I’ll write a song for you,
But the world must do the singing
Of my sonnets old and new.
Now tell me, world of music,
Why I cannot sing one song?
Is it because my mother hushed me
And laughed when I was wrong?
Although I can write music,
And tell when harmony’s right,
I will never sing better than when
My song was hushed one night.
Fond mothers, always be careful;
Let the songs be poorly sung.
To hush the child is cruel;
Let it sing while it is young.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.