The Mother's Prayer

by


The Mother's Prayer reflects the anger and loss that "Victory" brought families of the ten million soldiers who died in World War I. It was published in Nesbit's poetry collection, Many Voices (1922).
An illustration for the story The Mother's Prayer by the author E. Nesbit
Battle of Menin Road, wounded by side of the road
An illustration for the story The Mother's Prayer by the author E. Nesbit
Battle of Menin Road, wounded by side of the road
An illustration for the story The Mother's Prayer by the author E. Nesbit
This was my little son
   Who leapt and laughed on my knee:
Body we made with love,
   Soul made with love by Thee.
This was the mystery
   In which I worshipped Thy grace;
This was the sign to me—
   The unveiling of Thy face . . .
This, that lies under Thy skies
   Naked as on that day
   When the floor of heaven gave way
   And the glory of God shone through,
   When the world was made new
And Thy word was made flesh for me . . .
   He lies there, bare to Thy skies,
         O Lord God, see!

Body that was in mine
   A secret, sacred spell,
Little hands I have kissed
   Trampled by beasts in Hell . . .
Growing beauty and grace . . .
   Oh, head that lay on my bosom . . .
Broken, battered, shattered . . .
   Body that grew like a blossom!
All that was promised me
   On my life’s royal day.
Every promise broken—
   Only a ghost, and clay!

O God, I kneel at Thy feet;
   I lay my hands in Thine:
Thou gavest Thy Son for the world,
   And shall I not give mine?
Only—O God, have pity!
   All my defences are down:
God, I accept the Cross,
   Let him have the Crown!

By all that my love has borne,
   By all that all mothers bear,
By the infinite patient anguish,
   By the never-ceasing prayer,
By the thoughts that cut like a living knife,
   By the tears that are never dry,
Take what he died to win You—
   God, take Your victory!

We have watched on till the light burned low,
   And watched the dawn awake;
We have lived hardly and hardly fared
   For our sons’ sake.
All that was good in Thy earth,
   All that taught us of Heaven,
All that we had in the world
   We have given.
We pray with empty hands
   And hearts that are stiff with pain.
O God!  O God!  O God!
   Let the sacrifice not be vain.
This is his blood, Lord, see!
His blood that was shed for Thee;
Thy banner is dyed in that red tide
Lord, take Thy victory!

God! give Thine angels power
   To fight as he fought,
To scatter the hosts of evil,
   To bring their boastings to naught—
Gabriel with trumpet of battle . . .
   Michael, who wields Thy sword . . .
Breathe Thou Thy spirit upon them,
   Put forth Thy strength, O Lord.
See, Lord, this is his body,
   Broken for Thee, for Thee . . .
My son, my little son,
   Who leapt and laughed on my knee.

Featured in our collection of World War I Literature


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