The Inquest (1916)

W.H. Davies

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Links On

I took my oath I would inquire,
Without affection, hate, or wrath,
Into the death of Ada Wright –
So help me God! I took that oath.

When I went out to see the corpse,
The four months’ babe that died so young,
I judged it was seven pounds in weight,
And little more than one foot long.

One eye, that had a yellow lid,
Was shut – so was the mouth, that smiled;
The left eye open, shining bright –
It seemed a knowing little child.

For as I looked at that one eye,
It seemed to laugh, and say with glee:
‘What caused me death you’ll never know –
Perhaps my mother murdered me.’

When I went into court again,
To hear the mother’s evidence –
It was a love-child, she explained.
And smiled, for our intelligence.

‘Now, Gentlemen of the Jury, said
The coroner – ‘this woman’s child
By misadventure met its death.’
‘Aye, aye,’ said we. The mother smiled.

And I could see that child’s one eye
Which seemed to laugh, and say with glee:
‘What caused my death you’ll never know –
Perhaps my mother murdered me.’

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

love-child, n.  misadventure, n.  affection, n.