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A Mother to Her Waking Infant

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Now in thy dazzling half-oped eye,
Thy curled nose and lip awry,
Uphoisted arms and noddling head,
And little chin with crystal spread,
Poor helpless thing! what do I see,
That I should sing of thee?

From thy poor tongue no accents come,
Which can but rub thy toothless gum:
Small understanding boasts thy face,
Thy shapeless limbs nor step nor grace:
A few short words thy feats may tell,
And yet I love thee well.

When wakes the sudden bitter shriek,
And redder swells thy little cheek
When rattled keys thy woes beguile,
And through thine eyelids gleams the smile,
Still for thy weakly self is spent
Thy little silly plaint.

But when thy friends are in distress.
Thou’lt laugh and chuckle n’ertheless,
Nor with kind sympathy be smitten,
Though all are sad but thee and kitten;
Yet puny varlet that thou art,
Thou twitchest at the heart.

Thy smooth round cheek so soft and warm;
Thy pinky hand and dimpled arm;
Thy silken locks that scantly peep,
With gold tipped ends, where circle deep,
Around thy neck in harmless grace,
So soft and sleekly hold their place,
Might harder hearts with kindness fill,
And gain our right goodwill.

Each passing clown bestows his blessing,
Thy mouth is worn with old wives’ kissing;
E’en lighter looks the gloomy eye
Of surly sense when thou art by;
And yet, I think, whoe’er they be,
They love thee not like me.

Perhaps when time shall add a few
Short years to thee, thou’lt love me too;
And after that, through life’s long way,
Become my sure and cheering stay;
Wilt care for me and be my hold,
When I am weak and old.

Thou’lt listen to my lengthened tale,
And pity me when I am frail —
But see, the sweepy spinning fly
Upon the window takes thine eye.
Go to thy little senseless play;
Thou dost not heed my lay.


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A Mother to Her Waking Infant

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  • The daughter of a Church of Scotland minister, Romantic poet and playwright Joanna Baillie grew up in rural Scotland and spent much of her adult life in Hampstead, just outside London.
     
    Baillie’s lyric poems often take the form of meditations on nature and youth. She was the author of Poems: Wherein It Is Attempted to Describe Certain Views of Nature and of Rustic Manners (1790), Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters (1821), Dramatic Poetry (1836), and Fugitive Verses (1840), which includes revisions of earlier work in addition to new poems. Baillie edited the anthology A Collection of Poems, Chiefly Manuscript, and from Living Authors (1823). Shortly before her death, her complete works, The Dramatic and Poetical Works of Joanna Baillie (1851), was published. Baillie has enjoyed renewed attention by scholars who focus on her relationship to Romanticism, politics, and literary theory. The scholar Jennifer Breen provides an introduction to her...

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