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Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism 1883-1908 . Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858–1924.
page: 62

The Children

  • SPRING!—almost summer! The winter’s gone,
  • His reign is over, his hour is done!
  • Here’s the crumpled green of the new‐born leaves,
  • Here are baby‐sparrows ’neath cottage eaves;
  • And the apple orchards are thick with bloom,
  • And the woods are gathering their summer gloom;
  • And the cottage gardens are gay and bright
  • With the wallflower brown and the rock‐plant white;
  • And the heart of the risen year beats free
  • In meadow and forest, in flower and tree;
  • It beats in the prisoned hearts of men,
  • Till vaguely, vainly they long again
  • For the joy that is promised by every spring,
  • The joy no summer will ever bring.
  • And the children wander by field and brake,
  • And clap their hands for the daisies’ sake.
  • The bountiful summer laughs and throws
  • Her garment of green and her wreath of rose
  • On great vile cities that men have raised,
  • Where her name is unloved, unknown, unpraised,
  • And only gold is counted of worth
  • Of all the gifts of the goodly earth.
  • And in this desert that men have made
  • Grow white‐faced children that never played
  • With daisies and cowslips, nor laughed and lay
  • On the hot gray heaps of the scented hay—
  • The poor pale children who never have heard
  • The perfect song of an uncaged bird:
  • They never have gathered a growing flower,
  • Or strayed through a wood for a truant hour—
  • They sit in groups and they seem to wait,
  • Unfriended and hopeless and desolate.
page: 63
  • Do they wait for the hero who is to come
  • To teach them the meaning of love and home—
  • To take them away from the heavy frown
  • Of the high black walls and the cruel town,
  • To where there is light and a rest from noise,
  • And love for the children of men, and toys?
  • Who is to save them? Ah! I and you
  • Have the chance and the choice this fair deed to do.
  • Where Gold is god, there the children must
  • Be ground ’neath his wheels in the bloody dust;
  • But if Love be god—and a temple raised
  • Where gold shall be cursèd and love be praised—
  • When the temple is clean and the altar fair,
  • The children their garlands shall bring and bear
  • The first of all who shall gather there!