(taken from The Cry of the Children, 1843)
They look up with their pale and sunken faces, And their looks are sad to see,For the man’s hoary anguish draws and presses Down the cheeks of infancy;”Your old earth,” they say, “is very dreary, Our young feet,” they say, ” are very weak;Few paces have we taken, yet are weary — Our grave-rest is very far to seek;Ask the aged why they weep, and not the children, For the outside earth is cold,And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering, And the graves are for the old.
“True,” say the children, “it may happen That we die before our time;Little Alice died last year; her grave is shapen Like a snowball, in the rime.We looked into the pit prepared to take her; Was no room for any work in the close clay!From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her, Crying, ‘Get up, little Alice! it is day.’If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower, With your ear down, little Alice never cries;Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her, For the smile has time for growing in her eyes;And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in The shroud by the kirk-chime.It is good when it happens,” say the children, “That we die before our time.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning