James Montgomery

(4 November 1771 – 30 April 1854 / Irvine in Ayrshire)

An Indian Mother About to Destroy Her Child


Awhile she lay all passive to the touch
Of those small fingers, and the soft, soft lips
Soliciting the sweet nutrition thence,
While yearning sympathy crept round her heart,
She felt her spirit yielding to the charm,
That wakes the parent in the fellest bosom,
And binds her to her little one for ever,
If once completed - but she broke - she broke it.

For she was brooding o'er her sex's wrongs,
And seem'd to lie among a nest of scorpions,
That stung remorse to frenzy: - forth she sprung,
And with collected might a moment stood,
Mercy and misery struggling in her thoughts,
Yet both impelling her to one dire purpose.
There was a little grave already made,
But two spans long, in the turf floor beside her,
By him who was the father of that child;
Thence he had sallied when the work was done,
To hunt, to fish, to ramble on the hills,
Till all was peace again within that dwelling,
His haunt, - his den, - his anything but home!
Peace? no - till the new-comer was despatch'd.
Whence it should ne'er return, to break the stupor
Of unawaken'd conscience in himself.

She pluck'd the baby from her flowing breast,
And o'er its mouth, yet moist with nature's beverage,
Bound a white lotus-leaf to still its cries;
Then laid it down in that untimely grave,
As tenderly as though 'twere rock'd to sleep
With songs of love, and afraid to wake it;
Soon as she felt it touch the ground she started,
Hurried the damp earth over it; then fell
Flat on the heaving heap, and crush'd it down
With the whole burden of her grief, exclaiming,
'Oh, that my mother had done so to me!'
Then in a swoon forgot, a little while,
Her child, her sex, her tyrant, and herself.

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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