Intimations of Mortality

From Recollections of Early Childhood
A simple child . . .
   That lightly draws its breath
And feels its life in every limb,
   What should it know of death?
It knows but will not tell.
   Awake, alone, it counts its father’s years—
How few are left—its mother’s. Ah, how well
   It knows of death, in tears.
If any of the three—
   Parents and child—believe they have prevailed
To keep the secret of mortality,
   I know that two have failed.
The third, the lonely, keeps
   One secret—a child’s knowledge. When they come
At night to ask wherefore the sweet one weeps,
   Those hidden lips are dumb.

Webpage © 2001 ELC
Lane Core Jr. (
Created April 14, 2001; not revised.