"The Slave Mother," by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

Heard you that shriek? It rose 
So wildly on the air, 
It seem'd as if a burden'd heart 
Was breaking in despair. 
Saw you those hands so sadly clasped -- 
The bowed and feeble head -- 
The shuddering of that fragile form -- 
That look of grief and dread? 
Saw you the sad, imploring eye? 
Its every glance was pain, 
As if a storm of agony 
Were sweeping through the brain. 
She is a mother pale with fear, 
Her boy clings to her side, 
And in her kyrtle vainly tries 
His trembling form to hide. 
He is not hers, although she bore 
For him a mother's pains; 
He is not hers, although her blood 
is coursing through his veins! 
He is not hers, for cruel hands 
May rudely tear apart 
The only wreath of household love 
That binds her breaking heart. 
His love has been a joyous light 
That o'er her pathway smiled, 
A fountain gushing ever new, 
Amid life's desert wild. 
His lightest word has been a tone 
Of music round her heart, 
Their lives a streamlet blent in one -- 
Oh, Father! must they part? 
They tear him from her circling arms, 
Her last and fond embrace: -- 
Oh! never more may her sad eyes 
Gaze on his mournful face. 
No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks 
Disturb the listening air; 
She is a mother, and her heart 
Is breaking in despair.

Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins. Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects. Boston: J.B. Yerrinton & Son, Printers: 1854. Available online at Library of Congress' American Memory website.

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