Bohemian legends and other poems/The Bohemian Mother's Tale

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He was not like the other boys,
Who only cared for noisy plays;
He used to throw away his toys,
And lie there dreaming half his days.
He was an idle lad,
Who would not learn at school;
But I can’t say that he was bad,
Beyond the rule.

He was not strong enough to work,
To do the drudgery of the farm;
His father’s words they seemed to hurt,
Though, heaven knows, he meant no harm.
The boy would flush with pain,
At every angry tone;
I’ve often watched him through the lane
Walk off alone.

A boy like that can never live,
And thrive, in such a home as ours;
I therefore thought ’tis best to give
A boy like that to higher powers.
Within the convent gate
I led my wayward son,
Right thankful was I, and elate
When it was done.

The convent stood upon a hill;
You could see far on either side;
The brothers had some fields to till,
And they had forests far and wide.
They taught my son to serve,
And also how to pray.
I watched him often with the herd,
Pass by that way.

One day there came an artist great;
He was to paint the convent church.
Alas! it was my poor boy’s fate
To wait upon him in the church;
He handed him his paint,
And did I know not what.
It smelt so bad, he felt quite faint,
And rued his lot.

Yet I must say he painted well;
The saints alone would bring him fame.
My boy had something new to tell
And show me every time I came.
Oh, give me peace, I said,
Such things are not for you.
Go lead the life that you have led,
In that be true.

He answered nothing, but I saw
He thought the more, though he was still.
I mocked him that he wished to draw,
And told him then his father’s will,
That he should learn a trade,
Thereby to win his bread,
Since he for hard work was not made,
Every one said.

That night he kissed me when I went,
He begged my blessing on his head;
He said that he had never meant
To grieve me by the words he said;
And I was glad to hear
Such words from him at last,
For I had always had a fear
His dream would last.

To make a long, long story short,
My boy fled from his convent cell;
But he was one of the right sort,
And learned to draw both quick and well.
He made himself a way,
Far off in the great town—
He slept, indeed, I heard them say,
On eider down.

I often wondered that my lad
Lived in such wealth, and sent me naught.
His father said that he was bad,
’Twas only for himself he wrought;
And so years passed away;
My poor eyes they grew dim.
At length there came a knock one day,
And it was him.

My God! and was that then my son,
That skeleton, that scarce could walk!
One say at once his life was done,
He hardly had the strength to talk.
We bore him to his bed,
And I sat by his side,
And every word was kind we said,
Until he died.

It seemed that it was all a lie,
About that wealth they said he had;
He lived up in a garret high,
And starved himself to death, my lad.
He won the prize, you say,
The greatest prize they give.
What care I for the words they say,
Or things they give?

Not long ago they came to look
Upon the house where he was born;
On all the things that he forsook
To go and lead that life forlorn.
One said, “He asked for aid
And I refused him then.”
Another said, “Would I had staid,
Up in his den.”

They told me that my boy was great,
I could be proud of such a son;
And they lamented much his fate
And sorrowed that his life was done.
And wherefor did he die?
Alas! you know too well.
Neglect and want, the reason why,
’Tis sad to tell.

No hand was stretched to help my boy,
What care I what stands o’er his grave
Your monuments bring me no joy,
Nor can they now, my poor boy save.
Amidst the angel band
Beyond the troubled sea,
My wayward youngest born now stands,
And waits for me.