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Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967).  Picture-Show.  1920.

29. To a Childless Woman


YOU think I cannot understand. Ah, but I do... 
I have been wrung with anger and compassion for you. 
I wonder if you’d loathe my pity, if you knew. 
  
But you shall know. I’ve carried in my heart too long 
This secret burden. Has not silence wrought your wrong—         5
Brought you to dumb and wintry middle-age, with grey 
Unfruitful withering?—Ah, the pitiless things I say... 
  
What do you ask your God for, at the end of day, 
Kneeling beside your bed with bowed and hopeless head? 
What mercy can He give you?—Dreams of the unborn  10
Children that haunt your soul like loving words unsaid— 
Dreams, as a song half-heard through sleep in early morn? 
  
I see you in the chapel, where you bend before 
The enhaloed calm of everlasting Motherhood 
That wounds your life; I see you humbled to adore  15
The painted miracle you’ve never understood. 
  
Tender, and bitter-sweet, and shy, I’ve watched you holding 
Another’s child. O childless woman, was it then 
That, with an instant’s cry, your heart, made young again, 
Was crucified for ever—those poor arms enfolding  20
The life, the consummation that had been denied you? 
I too have longed for children. Ah, but you must not weep. 
Something I have to whisper as I kneel beside you... 
And you must pray for me before you fall asleep. 


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