Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

Repose in Egypt

Arthur Hugh Clough

O HAPPY mother!—while the man wayworn
Sleeps by his ass and dreams of daily bread,
Wakeful and heedful for thy infant care—
O happy mother!—while thy husband sleeps,
Art privileged, O blessed one, to see
Celestial strangers sharing in thy task,
And visible angels waiting on thy child.

Take, O young soul, O infant heaven-desired,
Take and fear not the cates, although of earth,
Which to thy hands celestial hands extend,
Take and fear not: such vulgar meats of life
Thy spirit lips no more must scorn to pass;
The seeming ill, contaminating joys,
Thy sense divine no more be loth to allow;
The pleasures as the pains of our strange life
Thou art engaged, self-compromised, to share.
Look up, upon thy mother’s face there sits
No sad suspicion of a lurking ill,
No shamed confession of a needful sin;
Mistrust her not, although of earth she too:
Look up! the bright-eyed cherubs overhead
Strew from mid air fresh flowers to crown the just.
Look! thy own father’s servants these, and thine,
Who at his bidding and at thine are here.
In thine own word was it not said long since
Butter and honey shall he eat, and learn
The evil to refuse and choose the good:
Fear not, O babe divine, fear not, accept;
O happy mother, privileged to see,
While the man sleeps, the sacred mystery.

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