Poetry: The Mother’s Hand

A wandering orphan child was I— Meanly, at the best, attired;
For oh ! my mother scarce could buy 
The common food each week required;
But when the anxious day had fled. 
It seemed to be her dearest joy,To press her pale hand on my head,
And pray that God would guide her boy.
More each winter, Stern suffering brought her to decay;
And then an Angel passed her door, And bore her lingering soul away!
I did  know not what grief is , until I  knelt by a dying bed;
All other woe on earth is brief, Save that which weeps a mother dead.

A seaman’s life was soon my lot, ‘Mid reckless deeds—and desperate men!
But still I never quite forgot The prayer I ne’er should hear again,
And oft, when half induced to tread Such paths as unto sin decoy,
I’ve felt her soft hand press my head, And that soft touch hath saved her boy.

Though hard their mockery to receive, Who ne’er themselves ‘gainst sin had striv’n,
Her whom on earth I dared not grieve, I could not —would not—grieve in heaven;
And thus from many an action dread, Too dark for human eyes to scan;
The same fond hand upon my head That blessed the boy—hath saved the woeful man!

— published 1855 in the California Farmer & Journal of Useful Sciences.