Where have you been the long day through, 
      Little brothers of mine?
For soon the world shall belong to you,
Yours to mar or to build anew—
Have you been to learn what the world shall do,
      Little brothers going home?

We have been to learn through the weary day
Where the great looms echo and crash and sway—
The world has willed it, and we obey,
      Elder brother.

What did you learn till set of sun,
      Little brothers of mine,
Down where the great looms wove and spun,
You who are many where we are one
(We whose day is so nearly done),
      Little brothers toiling home?

We have learned the things that the mill-folk said,
How Man is cruel and God is dead…
And how to spin with an even thread,
      Elder brother.

What did you win with the thing they taught,
      Little brothers of mine,
You whose sons shall have strength you brought,
Fashion their lives of the faith you bought,
Follow afar the ways you sought,
      Little brothers stealing home?

Shattered body and stunted brain,
Hearts made hard with the need of gain,
These we won and must give again,
      Elder brother.

How shall the world fare in your hand,
      Little brothers of mine,
When you shall stand where now we stand?
Will you lift a light in the darkened land
Or fire its ways with a burning brand,
      Little brothers creeping home?

What of the way the world shall fare?
What the world has given the world must bear…
We are tired—ah, tired—and we cannot care,
      Elder brother!

More by Margaret Widdemer

To a Young Girl at a Window

The Poor Old Soul plods down the street,
        Contented, and forgetting
How Youth was wild, and Spring was wild
        And how her life is setting;

And you lean out to watch her there,
        And pity, nor remember,
That Youth is hard, and Life is hard,
        And quiet is December. 

If You Should Tire of Loving Me

If you should tire of loving me
Some one of our far days,
Oh, never start to hide your heart
Or cover thought with praise.

For every word you would not say
Be sure my heart has heard,
So go from me all silently
Without a kiss or word;

For God must give you happiness…
And oh, it may befall
In listening long to Heaven-song
I may not care at all!

Old Wine

If I could lift
    My heart but high enough
    My heart could fill with love:

But ah, my heart
    Too still and heavy stays
    Too brimming with old days.