The Child We Lost [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Heart of Spring (1919) and Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]

The Child We Lost

Six weeks it was till Christmas time
And Summer seemed not far away;
The white sheep ran upon the hills,
The white lambs bleated all the day:
Oh, never was the earth more fair!
There was a sweetness in the air
That sang of heaven everywhere.

The garden was a world of bloom;
The cherry trees were red and green;
A league away the white smoke rose —
And always did there come between
The glory that we feel and know
When sunlight seems to overflow
Into a green, warm world below.

Our brown-eyed beauty claimed a kiss:
Sweet were her words, and full of play:
Light as the dancing thistle-down
Was all her airy talk that day —
Of flowers, and skies, and heavenly things,
And sometimes softest whisperings
Like music trembling on the strings.

Life to the child was very fair,
Up from the ranges far and blue
The sun came rosily each morn
To shine upon the world she knew:
— It was the time when bush-birds sing
And children’s thoughts go wandering;
When Summer-time makes love to Spring.

The seasons sixteen times had turned —
Gladsome or bitter, dark or fair —
Since to our lives there came a love,
A joy that lightened every care . .
We watched her wandering down the hill:
We watched her lovingly until
She seemed like someone standing still.

The angels spoke not that bright day:
Alas, that they should love the gloom!
Had they but whispered, she had turned
Back to the well-loved garden bloom . .
O, gentle heart so soft and kind!
O, big brown eyes so bright and blind!
What was it that you sought to find?

. . . Back in the dim, grey time they tell
Of children tempted far away
In the white glimmering of the moon,
In twilight or at dawn of day . . .
One evening when the sun was down
A woman came: her eyes were brown.
But our child came not from the town.

Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, The Bookfellow, Sydney, 1919, pages 71-73

Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Lothian Publishing Company, Melbourne, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], pages 64-65

Editor’s notes:
In Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934), the word “time” (in the phrase “grey time”) is rendered as “times”; and the word “glimmering” is rendered as “flimmering”.

flimmer = glow or shine faintly or unsteadily, flicker, glimmer

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