A Mother to Her Waking Infant (1790)

Joanna Baillie

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Links On

Now in thy dazzling half-oped eye,
Thy curled nose and lip awry,
Uphoisted arms and noddling head,
And little chin with crystal spread,
Poor helpless thing! what do I see,
That I should sing of thee?

From thy poor tongue no accents come,
Which can but rub thy toothless gum:
Small understanding boasts thy face,
Thy shapeless limbs nor step nor grace:
A few short words thy feats may tell,
And yet I love thee well.

When sudden wakes the bitter shriek,
And redder swells thy little cheek
When rattled keys thy woes beguile,
And through thine eyelids gleams the smile,
Still for thy weakly self is spent
Thy little silly plaint.

But when thy friends are in distress,
Thou’lt laugh and chuckle n’er the less,
Nor e’en with sympathy be smitten,
Tho’ all are sad but thee and kitten;
Yet little varlet that thou art,
Thou twitchest at the heart.

Thy rosy cheek so soft and warm;
Thy pinky hand and dimpled arm;
Thy silken locks that scantly peep,
With gold-tipped ends, where circles deep,
Around thy neck in harmless grace,
So soft and sleekly hold their place,
Might harder hearts with kindness fill,
And gain our right good will.

Each passing clown bestows his blessing,
Thy mouth is worn with old wives’ kissing:
E’en lighter looks the gloomy eye
Of surly sense, when thou art by;
And yet, I think, whoe’er they be,
They love thee not like me.

Perhaps when time shall add a few
Short years to thee, thou’lt love me too;
and after that, through life’s weary way,
Become my sure and cheering stay;
Wilt care for me and be my hold,
When I am weak and old.

Thou’lt listen to my lengthened tale,
And pity me when I am frail–
But see, the sweepy spinning fly
Upon the window takes thine eye.
Go to thy little senseless play;
Thou dost not heed my lay.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

noddling [noddle]