Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
1186. A Child’s Question
By Emma Huntington Nason
“WHAT is it to be dead?” O Life,
  Close-held within my own,
What foul breath in the air is rife?
  What voice malign, unknown,
Hath dared this whisper faint and dread,        5
“What is—what is it to be dead?”
Who told you that the song-bird died?
  They had no right to say
This to my child—I know we cried
  When Robin “went away;”        10
But this strange thing we never said,
That what we loved so could be dead.
Give me your hands, my only boy!
  Health throbs in every vein;
Thou hast not dreamed of earth’s alloy,        15
  Nor stepped where guilt has lain;
O sweet young life! O baby breath!
What hast thou now to do with death?
I even framed for thy dear sake
  Anew the childish prayer,        20
Lest, “If I die before I wake,”
  Should rouse a thought or care.
Mother of Christ, was this a sin—
To watch where death might enter in?
Too late! The Angel of the Flame        25
  Relentless cries: “Go hence!”
I think of Eden’s sin and shame;
  I gaze—on innocence!
And still the curse? Must I arise
And lead my own from Paradise!        30
I see the wide, the awful world
  Loom up beyond the gate;
I see his pure soul tossed and whirled—
  My child! I pray thee wait!
Ask me not what the Angel saith;        35
My soul this day hath tasted death!


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