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
Songs for the People
Let me make the songs for the people, Songs for the old and young; Songs to stir like a battle-cry Wherever they are sung. Not for the clashing of sabres, For carnage nor for strife; But songs to thrill the hearts of men With more abundant life. Let me make the songs for the weary, Amid life's fever and fret, Till hearts shall relax their tension, And careworn brows forget. Let me sing for little children, Before their footsteps stray, Sweet anthems of love and duty, To float o'er life's highway. I would sing for the poor and aged, When shadows dim their sight; Of the bright and restful mansions, Where there shall be no night. Our world, so worn and weary, Needs music, pure and strong, To hush the jangle and discords Of sorrow, pain, and wrong. Music to soothe all its sorrow, Till war and crime shall cease; And the hearts of men grown tender Girdle the world with peace.