Whate’er we love becomes of us a part;
The center of all tributary powers—
Our life is fed from Nature’s throbbing heart,
And of her best the fiber’d growth is ours.
O little child, that once was I,
And still in part must be,
When other children pass me by,
Again thy face I see.
Where art thou? Can the Innocence
That here no more remains,
Forget, though early banished hence,
What memory retains?
Alas! and could’st thou look upon
The features that were thine,
To see of tender graces none
Abiding now in mine,
Thy heart compassionate would plead,
And, haply, not in vain,
As Angel Guardian, home to lead
The wanderer again.
Come back to me! but not as now ye are,
O friends afar!
For it were pain,
More keen than parting, so to meet again,
With all the change that time, perchance, hath wrought
In form and thought,
To make us strangers in each other’s eyes,
Save for long-cloistered sympathies.
O shadow, in thy fleeting form I see
The friend of fortune that once clung to me.
In flattering light, thy constancy is shown;
In darkness, thou wilt leave me all alone.
Old Sorrow I shall meet again,
And Joy, perchance—but never, never,
Happy Childhood, shall we twain
See each other’s face forever!
And yet I would not call thee back,
Dear Childhood, lest the sight of me,
Thine old companion, on the rack
Of Age, should sadden even thee.
John B. Tabb 
For a recitation, click the play button:
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/110753941″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
“Formation”: Poems, p. 140; Poetry. 1894. Fiber’d growth: literally, thick-walled cells that give support and strength to plant tissue; figuratively, essential character or structure, and strength or fortitude.
“My Angel”: Poetry, p. 255. October 1905. Haply means by chance or accident. Angel Guardian, a figurative application of the Christian concept of guardian angels; see Matthew 18:10.
“A Heart-Cry”: Later Lyrics, p. 5; Poetry, p. 270. 1902. Perchance means perhaps, maybe, possibly. Long-cloistered means long-hidden.
“The Shadow”: Poems, p. 150; Poetry, p. 352. December 1885.
“Childhood”: Poems, p. 45; Poetry, p. 172. 1894. Perchance means perhaps, maybe, possibly. Twain means two.
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