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ADDRESS TO MY INFANT DAUGHTER, DORA

ON BEING REMINDED THAT SHE WAS A MONTH OLD THAT DAY, SEPTEMBER 16

          ----HAST thou then survived--
          Mild Offspring of infirm humanity,
          Meek Infant! among all forlornest things
          The most forlorn--one life of that bright star,
          The second glory of the Heavens?--Thou hast,
          Already hast survived that great decay,
          That transformation through the wide earth felt,
          And by all nations. In that Being's sight
          From whom the Race of human kind proceed,
          A thousand years are but as yesterday;                      10
          And one day's narrow circuit is to Him
          Not less capacious than a thousand years.
          But what is time? What outward glory? neither
          A measure is of Thee, whose claims extend
          Through "heaven's eternal year."--Yet hail to Thee,
          Frail, feeble Monthling!--by that name, methinks,
          Thy scanty breathing-time is portioned out
          Not idly.--Hadst thou been of Indian birth,
          Couched on a casual bed of moss and leaves,
          And rudely canopied by leafy boughs,                        20
          Or to the churlish elements exposed
          On the blank plains,--the coldness of the night,
          Or the night's darkness, or its cheerful face
          Of beauty, by the changing moon adorned,
          Would, with imperious admonition, then
          Have scored thine age, and punctually timed
          Thine infant history, on the minds of those
          Who might have wandered with thee.--Mother's love,
          Nor less than mother's love in other breasts,
          Will, among us warm-clad and warmly housed,                 30
          Do for thee what the finger of the heavens
          Doth all too often harshly execute
          For thy unblest coevals, amid wilds
          Where fancy hath small liberty to grace
          The affections, to exalt them or refine;
          And the maternal sympathy itself,
          Though strong, is, in the main, a joyless tie
          Of naked instinct, wound about the heart.
          Happier, far happier is thy lot and ours!
          Even now--to solemnise thy helpless state,                  40
          And to enliven in the mind's regard
          Thy passive beauty--parallels have risen,
          Resemblances, or contrasts, that connect,
          Within the region of a father's thoughts,
          Thee and thy mate and sister of the sky.
          And first;--thy sinless progress, through a world
          By sorrow darkened and by care disturbed,
          Apt likeness bears to hers, through gathered clouds,
          Moving untouched in silver purity,
          And cheering oft-times their reluctant gloom.               50
          Fair are ye both, and both are free from stain:
          But thou, how leisurely thou fill'st thy horn
          With brightness! leaving her to post along,
          And range about, disquieted in change,
          And still impatient of the shape she wears.
          Once up, once down the hill, one journey, Babe
          That will suffice thee; and it seems that now
          Thou hast fore-knowledge that such task is thine;
          Thou travellest so contentedly, and sleep'st
          In such a heedless peace. Alas! full soon                   60
          Hath this conception, grateful to behold,
          Changed countenance, like an object sullied o'er
          By breathing mist; and thine appears to be
          A mournful labour, while to her is given
          Hope, and a renovation without end.
          --That smile forbids the thought; for on thy face
          Smiles are beginning, like the beams of dawn,
          To shoot and circulate; smiles have there been seen
          Tranquil assurances that Heaven supports
          The feeble motions of thy life, and cheers                  70
          Thy loneliness: or shall those smiles be called
          Feelers of love, put forth as if to explore
          This untried world, and to prepare thy way
          Through a strait passage intricate and dim?
          Such are they; and the same are tokens, signs,
          Which, when the appointed season hath arrived,
          Joy, as her holiest language, shall adopt;
          And Reason's godlike Power be proud to own.
                                                              1804.


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