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Poem by Janet Hamilton


Night Phases of Drunkenness


PHASE I

The midnight hour hath chimed,
 The night is wild and cold;
I see a trembling hand
 Yon cottage door unfold.
A pale and furrowed face
 Peers forth into the storm;
And o'er the threshold leans
 A bent and tottering form.

Her white hair, damp with tears,
 Clings to her wasted cheek;
With failing eyes she scans
 The street, her son to seek.
His staggering form she sees,
 His reeling steps she hears
Break, widowed heart! How vain
 Thy pleading words and tears!

PHASE II

A dark, dismantled room
 A wailing infant's cry
A little weeping maid
 Sings mournful lullaby
Two baby brothers, pale
 With hunger, cold, and fear,
Lie at her feet; while she
 Keeps sobbing, "Mother, dear!

"Oh! shall I never see
 Thy sweet and mournful face?
Oh! take thy baby home
 Unto the blessed place.
No milk, no food have I,
 For her and brothers dear;
Father beats us when we cry,
 And leaves us nightly here."

PHASE III

A workman sought his home,
 When evening bells had rung
Dark thoughts o'er brow and heart
 Their sullen shadows flung.
A little ragged boy,
 With hunger in his eyes,
Cries, "Mother lies in bed
 And minds not baby's cries."

No light, nor food, nor fire
 Is in the wretched room
To where the inebriate lies
 He rushes in the gloom.
He beats the senseless form
 He drags her from the bed
Where, crushed and livid, lies
 Her smother'd infantdead!

PHASE IV

A slender, pallid boy,
 With hectic on his cheek,
Moved by his mother's tears,
 His father goes to seek.
The midnight moon looks down
 Upon the wintry street,
And sees the shrinking youth
 His ruffian parent meet.

With drunken fury blazed
 His eyeswith curse and blow
He dashed the feeble boy
 Upon the stones below.
His bleeding form they raised
 Sustained his dying head
But ere the mother's arms
 Had clasped him, life was fled!



Janet Hamilton


Janet Hamilton's other poems:
  1. Address and Welcome to J. B. Gough
  2. Duleep Singh
  3. Address to Col. D. C. R. Carrick-Buchanan of Drumpellier
  4. Lines on the Trial of Madeline Smith for the Murder of L'Angelier
  5. The Highlands of Scotland


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