To My Mother

By George W. Bethune

My mother! Manhood's anxious brow
    And sterner cares have long been mine;
Yet turn I fondly to thee now,
    As when upon thy bosom's shrine
My infant griefs were gently hushed to rest,
And thy low-whispered prayers my slumbers blest.

I never call that gentle name,
    My mother! but I am again
E'en as a child; the very same
    That prattled at thy knee; and fain
Would I forget, in momentary joy,
That I no more can be thy happy boy;

Thine artless boy, to whom thy smile
    Was sunshine, and thy frown sad night;
(Though rare that frown, and brief the while
    It veiled from me thy loving light;)
For well-conned task, ambition's highest bliss
To win from thy approving lips a kiss.

I've lived through foreign lands to roam,
    And gazed on many a classic scene;
But oft the thought of that dear home,
    Which once was ours, would intervene,
And bid me close again my languid eye,
To think of thee, and those sweet days gone by.

That pleasant home of fruits and flowers,
    Where by the Hudson's verdant side,
My sisters wove their jasmine bowers,
    And he we loved, at eventide
Would hastening come, from distant toil to bless
Thine and his children's radiant happiness!

Those scenes are fled; the rattling car
    O'er flint-paved streets profanes the spot,
Where in the sod we sowed the "Star
    Of Bethlehem" and "Forget-me-not,"
Oh! Wo to Mammon's desolating reign,
We never shall find on earth a home again!

I've pored o'er many a yellow page
    Of ancient wisdom, and have won,
Perchance, a scholar's name; yet sage
    Or poet ne'er have taught thy son
Lessons so pure, so fraught with holy truth,
As those his mother's faith shed o'er his youth.

If ever through grace my God shall own
    The offerings of my life and love,
Methinks, when bending close before his throne,
    Amid the ransomed hosts above,
Thy name on my rejoicing lips shall be,
And I will bless that grace for heaven and thee!

For thee and heaven; for thou didst tread
    The way that leads to that blest land;
My often wayward footsteps led,
   By thy kind words and patient hand;
And when I wandered far, thy faithful call
Restored my soul from sin's deceitful thrall.

I have been blest with other ties,
    Fond ties and true, yet never deem
That I the less thy fondness prize.
    No, mother! in the warmest dream
Of answered passion, through this heart of mine,
One chord will vibrate to no name but thine!

Mother! thy name is widow; well
    I know no love of mine can fill
The waste place of thy heart, nor dwell
    Within one sacred recess; still,
Lean on the faithful bosom of thy son,
My parents thou art more -- my only one!

from Lays of Love and Faith, with Other Fugitive Poems
Philadelphia, 1848
as quoted in American Life In The 1840s.