A Mother’s Answer
You ask me, dear child, why thus sadly I weep
For baby the angels have taken to keep;
Altho’ she is safe, and for ever at rest,
A yearning to see her will rise in my breast.
I pray and endeavour to quell it in vain,
But stronger it comes and yet stronger again,
Till all the bright thoughts of her happier lot
Are lost in this one — my baby is not.
And while I thus yearn so intensely to see
This child that the angels are keeping for me,
I doubt for the time where her spirit has flown —
If the love e’en of angels can fully atone
For the loss of a mother’s, mysterious and deep.
I own that thought sinful, yet owning it — weep.
Louisa Lawson (1848 – 1920)
She was the mother of Henry Lawson and she bore five children. Henry Lawson is well known and his short stories on early Australian life are exemplary (refer to the collection – ‘While the Billy Boils’)
The passion exhibited in Louisa Lawson’s sonnet was due to the death of an infant daughter. This poem was published in the Mudgee Independent and brought recognition to her poetic skill.
The first part of the sonnet stresses the inescapable loss, independent of any angels keeping her safe. Then there is a clear change at the volta; after the first eight lines. Atonement is not possible even the love of all the angels is insufficient. She regards her thought sinful, but it is only a thought. She is quite willing to own it; but it makes no difference. Nothing can appease her grief.
Louisa Lawson had a very hard life. She was a long-suffering bush-woman. After her husband Peter left, she worked tirelessly to secure income for the family. A very gifted person who was a prominent suffragette working for the emancipation of women. She setup the publication Dawn and used this to promote emancipation.
For full details on her life see – Biography – Louisa Lawson – Australian Dictionary of Biography (anu.edu.au)