Why do I carry, she said,
This child that is no child of mine?
Through the heat of the day it did nothing but fidget and whine,
Now it snuffles under the dew and the cold star-shine,
And lies across my heart heavy as lead,
Heavy as the dead.
This beautiful poem by STW is another poem about the flight of refugees. It almost certainly relates to the civilian escape from Paris as it fell in 1940, It conveys both the weariness and the worry of a woman escaping with a child who is not her own and unfortunately there must be many such examples of such experiences among refugees from Ukraine at the present time. The next lines reveal that the story is being reported by an observer.
Why did I lift it, she said,
Out of its cradle in the wheel-tracks?
On the dusty road burdens have melted like wax,
Soldiers have thrown down their rifles, misers slipped their packs:
Yes, and the woman who left it there has sped
With a lighter tread.
The poem continues to discuss the rescuers ambivalence towards the child being rescued. there are echoes of the Scriptural verses of Matthew 24:19 –
And woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days!
and also of Mark 13:17
Townsend-Warner finishes with these poignant lines which might also be those of a similar refugee from the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan or elsewhere:-
But since I’ve carried it, she said,
So far I might as well carry it still.
If we ever should come to kindness someone will
Pity me perhaps as the mother of a child so ill,
Grant me even to lie down on a bed;
Give me at least bread.
Here is another moving poem by Townsend Warner from You Tube where you can also find her own reading of this second poem.