Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
X. The Pity of It
Mimma Bella
By Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1845–1907)
WHAT wast thou, little baby, that art dead—
  A one-day’s blossom that the hoar-frost nips?
  A bee that ’s crusht, the first bright day it sips?
A small dropt gem that in the earth we tread?
Or cherub’s smiling gold-encircled head,        5
  That Death from out Life’s painted missal rips?
  Or murmured prayer that barely reached the lips?
Or sonnet’s fair first line—the rest unsaid?
Oh, ’tis not hard to find what thou wast like;
  The world is full of fair unfinished things        10
That vanish like a dawn-admonished elf.
Life teems with opening forms for Death to strike;
  The woods are full of unfledged broken wings;
Enough for us, thou wast thy baby self.
Lo, through the open window of the room
  That was her nursery, a small bright spark
  Comes wandering in, as falls the summer dark,
And with a measured flight explores the gloom.
As if it sought, among the things that loom
  Vague in the dusk, for some familiar mark,        20
  And like a light on some wee unseen bark,
It tacks in search of who knows what or whom.
I know ’tis but a fire-fly; yet its flight,
  So straight, so measured, round the empty bed,
Might be a little soul’s that night sets free;        25
And as it nears, I feel my heart grow tight
  With something like a superstitious dread,
And watch it breathless, lest it should be she.

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