The Little White Hearse

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850–1919
Somebody’s baby was buried to-day—
      The empty white hearse from the grave rumbled back,
And the morning somehow seemed less smiling and gay
      As I paused on the walk while it crossed on its way,
And a shadow seemed drawn o’er the sun’s golden track.

Somebody’s baby was laid out to rest,
      White as a snowdrop, and fair to behold,
And the soft little hands were crossed over the breast,
      And those hands and the lips and the eyelids were pressed
With kisses as hot as the eyelids were cold.

Somebody saw it go out of her sight,
      Under the coffin lid—out through the door;
Somebody finds only darkness and blight
      All through the glory of summer-sun light;
Somebody’s baby will waken no more.

Somebody’s sorrow is making me weep:
      I know not her name, but I echo her cry,
For the dearly bought baby she longed so to keep,
      The baby that rode to its long-lasting sleep
In the little white hearse that went rumbling by.

I know not her name, but her sorrow I know;
      While I paused on the crossing I lived it once more,
And back to my heart surged that river of woe
      That but in the breast of a mother can flow;
For the little white hearse has been, too, at my door.

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Poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850–1919

Subjects Living, Infancy, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

Occasions Funerals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Elegy

 Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Biography

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in Johnstown, Wisconsin and her poetry was being published by the time she graduated from high school. Her poetry was very popular, generally written in plain, rhyming verse. Her works include Poems of Passion (1883), A Woman of the World (1904), Poems of Peace (1906), Poems of Experience (1910), and Poems (1919).

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Infancy, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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