Heard you that shriek? It rose So wildly on the air, It seemed as if a burden'd heart Was breaking in despair. Saw you those hands so sadly clasped-- The bowed and feeble head-- The shuddering of that fragile form-- That look of grief and dread? Saw you the sad, imploring eye? Its every glance was pain, As if a storm of agony Were sweeping through the brain. She is a mother pale with fear, Her boy clings to her side, And in her kirtle vainly tries His trembling form to hide. He is not hers, although she bore For him a mother's pains; He is not hers, although her blood Is coursing through his veins! He is not hers, for cruel hands May rudely tear apart The only wreath of household love That binds her breaking heart. His love has been a joyous light That o'er her pathway smiled, A fountain gushing ever new, Amid life's desert wild. His lightest word has been a tone Of music round her heart, Their lives a streamlet blent in one-- Oh, Father! must they part? They tear him from her circling arms, Her last and fond embrace. Oh! never more may her sad eyes Gaze on his mournful face. No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks Disturb the listening air: She is a mother, and her heart Is breaking in despair.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper - 1825-1911
The Burdens of All
We may sigh o'er the heavy burdens
Of the black, the brown and white;
But if we all clasped hands together
The burdens would be more light.
How to solve life's saddest problems,
Its weariness, want and woe,
Was answered by One who suffered
In Palestine long ago.
He gave from his heart this precept,
To ease the burdens of men,
"As ye would that others do to you
Do ye even so to them."
Life's heavy, wearisome burdens
Will change to a gracious trust
When men shall learn in the light of God
To be merciful and just.
Where war has sharpened his weapons,
And slavery masterful had,
Let white and black and brown unite
To build the kingdom of God.
And never attempt in madness
To build a kingdom or state,
Through greed of gold or lust of power,
On the crumbling stones of hate.
The burdens will always he heavy,
The sunshine fade into night,
Till mercy and justice shall cement
The black, the brown and the white.
And earth shall answer with gladness,
The herald angel's refrain,
When "Peace on earth, good will to men"
Was the burden of their strain.