Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


The Slave Mother

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.

Credit


This poem is in the public domain.

Author


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on September 24, 1825, in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a prominent abolitionist and temperance and women's suffrage activist, as well as a poet. She authored numerous books, including the poetry collections Forest Leaves (1845) and Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854). She worked at Union Seminary in Ohio, and died on February 22, 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Date Published: 1854-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/slave-mother