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Read The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume IV Part 4

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A stranger, and alone, I past those scenes We past so late together; and my heart Felt something like desertion, when I look’d Around me, and the well-known voice of friend Was absent, and the cordial look was there No more to smile on me. I thought on Lloyd; All he had been to me. And now I go Again to mingle with a world impure, With men who make a mock of holy things Mistaken, and of man’s best hope think scorn.

The world does much to warp the heart of man, And I may sometimes join its ideot laugh.

Of this I now complain not. Deal with me, Omniscient Father! as thou judgest best, And in thy season _tender_ thou my heart.

I pray not for myself; I pray for him Whose soul is sore perplex’d: shine thou on him, Father of Lights! and in the difficult paths Make plain his way before him. His own thoughts May he not think, his own ends not pursue; So shall he best perform thy will on earth.

Greatest and Best, thy will be ever ours!

_August_, 1797.


Thou too art dead, —-! very kind Hast thou been to me in my childish days, Thou best good creature. I have not forgot How thou didst love thy Charles, when he was yet A prating schoolboy: I have not forgot The busy joy on that important day, When, child-like, the poor wanderer was content To leave the bosom of parental love, His childhood’s play-place, and his early home, For the rude fosterings of a stranger’s hand, Hard uncouth tasks, and school-boy’s scanty fare.

How did thine eye peruse him round and round, And hardly know him in his yellow coats[3], Red leathern belt, and gown of russet blue!

Farewell, good aunt!

Go thou, and occupy the same grave-bed Where the dead mother lies.

Oh my dear mother, oh thou dear dead saint!

Where’s now that placid face, where oft hath sat A mother’s smile, to think her son should thrive In this bad world, when she was dead and gone; And when a tear hath sat (take shame, O son!) When that same child has prov’d himself unkind.

One parent yet is left–a wretched thing, A sad survivor of his buried wife, A palsy-smitten, childish, old, old man, A semblance most forlorn of what he was, A merry cheerful man. A merrier man, A man more apt to frame matter for mirth, Mad jokes, and anticks for a Christmas eve; Making life social, and the laggard time To move on nimbly, never yet did cheer The little circle of domestic friends.

_February_, 1797.

[Footnote 3: The dress of Christ’s Hospital,]


Alas! how am I chang’d! Where be the tears, The sobs, and forc’d suspensions of the breath, And all the dull desertions of the heart, With which I hung o’er my dead mother’s corse?

Where be the blest subsidings of the storm Within, the sweet resignedness of hope Drawn heavenward, and strength of filial love In which I bow’d me to my father’s will?

My G.o.d, and my Redeemer! keep not thou My soul in brute and sensual thanklessness Seal’d up; oblivious ever of that dear grace, And health restor’d to my long-loved friend, Long-lov’d, and worthy known. Thou didst not leave Her soul in death! O leave not now, my Lord, Thy servants in far worse, in spiritual death!

And darkness blacker than those feared shadows Of the valley all must tread. Lend us thy balms, Thou dear Physician of the sin-sick soul, And heal our cleansed bosoms of the wounds With which the world has pierc’d us thro’ and thro’.

Give us new flesh, new birth. Elect of heav’n May we become; in thine election sure Contain’d, and to one purpose stedfast drawn, Our soul’s salvation!

Thou, and I, dear friend, With filial recognition sweet, shall know One day the face of our dear mother in heaven; And her remember’d looks of love shall greet With looks of answering love; her placid smiles Meet with a smile as placid, and her hand With drops of fondness wet, nor fear repulse.

Be witness for me, Lord, I do not ask Those days of vanity to return again (Nor fitting me to ask, nor thee to give), Vain loves and wanderings with a fair-hair’d maid, Child of the dust as I am, who so long My captive heart steep’d in idolatry And creature-loves. Forgive me, O my Maker!

If in a mood of grief I sin almost In sometimes brooding on the days long past, And from the grave of time wishing them back, Days of a mother’s fondness to her child, Her little one.

O where be now those sports, And infant play-games? where the joyous troops Of children, and the haunts I did so love?

O my companions, O ye loved names Of friend or playmate dear; gone are ye now; Gone diverse ways; to honour and credit some, And some, I fear, to ignominy and shame!

I only am left, with unavailing grief To mourn one parent dead, and see one live Of all life’s joys bereft and desolate: Am left with a few friends, and one, above The rest, found faithful in a length of years, Contented as I may, to bear me on To the not unpeaceful evening of a day Made black by morning storms!

_September_, 1797.


Thou should’st have longer liv’d, and to the grave Have peacefully gone down in full old age!

Thy children would have tended thy gray hairs.

We might have sat, as we have often done, By our fireside, and talk’d whole nights away, Old times, old friends, and old events recalling; With many a circ.u.mstance, of trivial note, To memory dear, and of importance grown.

How shall we tell them in a stranger’s ear?

A wayward son ofttimes was I to thee; And yet, in all our little bickerings, Domestic jars, there was, I know not what, Of tender feeling, that were ill exchang’d For this world’s chilling friendships, and their smiles Familiar, whom the heart calls strangers still.

A heavy lot hath he, most wretched man!

Who lives the last of all his family.

He looks around him, and his eye discerns The face of the stranger, and his heart is sick.

Man of the world, what canst thou do for him?

Wealth is a burden, which he could not bear; Mirth a strange crime, the which he dares not act; And wine no cordial, but a bitter cup.

For wounds like his Christ is the only cure, And gospel promises are his by right, For these were given to the poor in heart.

Go, preach thou to him of a world to come, Where friends shall meet, and know each other’s face.

Say less than this, and say it to the winds.

_October_, 1797.


I am a widow’d thing, now thou art gone!

Now thou art gone, my own familiar friend, Companion, sister, help-mate, counsellor!

Alas! that honour’d mind, whose sweet reproof And meekest wisdom in times past have smooth’d The unfilial harshness of my foolish speech, And made me loving to my parents old, (Why is this so, ah G.o.d! why is this so?) That honour’d mind become a fearful blank, Her senses lock’d up, and herself kept out From human sight or converse, while so many Of the foolish sort are left to roam at large, Doing all acts of folly, and sin, and shame?

Thy paths are mystery!

Yet I will not think, Sweet friend, but we shall one day meet, and live In quietness, and die so, fearing G.o.d.

Or if _not_, and these false suggestions be A fit of the weak nature, loth to part With what it lov’d so long, and held so dear; If thou art to be taken, and I left (More sinning, yet unpunish’d, save in thee), It is the will of G.o.d, and we are clay In the potter’s hands; and, at the worst, are made From absolute nothing, vessels of disgrace, Till, his most righteous purpose wrought in us, Our purified spirits find their perfect rest.


(_January_, 1798. _Text of_ 1818)

I have had playmates, I have had companions, In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days, All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have been laughing, I have been carousing, Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies, All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a love once, fairest among women; Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her– All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man; Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly; Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.


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