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The Step Mother

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Well I recall my Father’s wife,
      The day he brought her home.
His children looked for years of strife,
      And troubles sure to come—
Ungraciously we welcomed her,
      A thing to scorn and blame;
And swore we never would confer
      On her, a Mother’s name

I see her yet—a girl in years,
      With eyes so blue and mild;
She greeted us with smiles and tears,
      How sweetly too she smiled—
She bent to kiss my sullen brow,
      With woman’s gentle grace;
And laid her tiny hand of snow
      On my averted face—

“Henry—is this your son? She said—
      “Dear boy—he now is mine—
What not one kiss?—” I shook my head,
      “I am no son of thine!—”
She sighed—and from her dimpled cheek
      The rosy colour fled;
She turned away and did not speak,
      My thoughts were with the dead—

There leaped from out my Father’s eyes
      A jet of swarthy fire;
That flashed on me in fierce surprise—
      I fled before his ire
I heard her gentle voice entreat—
      “Forgiveness for her sake”—
Which added swiftness to my feet,
      A sad and strange mistake—

A year had scarcely rolled away
      When by that hated bride;
I loved to linger half the day,
      In very joy and pride;
Her voice was music to mine ear,
      So soft its accent fell;
“Dear Mother now”—and oh, how dear
      No words of mine can tell—

She was so gentle, fair and kind,
      So pure in soul and free from art;
That woman with her noble mind,
      Subdued my rebel heart—
I just had learned to know her worth,
      My Father’s second choice to bless;
When God removed her from the earth,
      And plunged us all in deep distress—

Hot fever smote with burning blight
      Stretchd on a restless bed of pain;
I moaning lay from morn till night
      With aching limbs and throbbing brain—
Four weary weeks beside my bed,
      She sat within a darkened room;
Untiring held my aching head,
      Nor heeded silence—cold and gloom—

And when my courage quite gave way,
      And fainter grew my struggling breath;
She taught my stricken soul to pray
      And calmly meet approaching death—
“Fear not God’s angel, sent by Him,
      The weary spirit to release;
Before the mortal eyes grow dim,
      Floats down the white winged dove of peace”—

There came a change—but fingers small,
      No longer smoothed my matted hair;
She sprang not to my feeble call,
      Nor helped to lift me to my chair—
And I arose as from the dead,
      A life for her dear life was given;
The angel who had watched my bed
      Had vanished into Heaven!—

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The Step Mother

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  • Susanna Moodie's importance in Canadian literary history derives partly from her prominence as a contributor to the Literary Garland, the most successful literary periodical in the British North American provinces in the mid nineteenth century, but mostly from the quality of her classic settlement narrative Roughing It in the Bush (1852) and its first sequel, Life in the Clearings (1853). The former work in particular has received much attention from Canadian critics and has been controversial. Some early reviewers took exception to its negative views of Canada and its declared intent to discourage British gentlefolk from immigrating to the country, but it is a complex and engaging book that has often been perceived as much more than a guide to prospective emigrants. In 1972 Margaret Atwood's book of poems The Journals of Susanna Moodie brought Moodie to increased prominence through its presentation of an apt model of Canadian experience and...

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