"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.
Today one of the most-recognized figures in American literary history, poet Walt Whitman was denounced by critics in his own time.
George Eastman introduced the Kodak and Brownie camera systems and transformed photography into something anybody could do.
In 1897, Arctic explorer Robert Peary caused a sensation when he returned from Greenland with five Eskimos.
Franklin Roosevelt restored hope after the Great Depression and led the nation during World War II. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
Forever enshrined in myth by an assassin's bullet, Kennedy's presidency long defied objective appraisal. Part of the award-winning Presidents collection.
The black residents of Tulsa relive their community's remarkable rise and tragic decline.
The women's suffrage movement won the right to vote when the 19th Amendment passed in 1920.
The unusual life of David Vetter, who lived permanently inside a germ-free environment due to severe combined immunodeficiency.