Mother and Child

Mother and Child

Mother and Child by Christian Krohg, 1883.

Mother and Child


In the red cradle she is finally asleep—
innocent, serene—
as if she’s always been.

The hand clutching the cradle
tells a different story,
resting, limp, protective,
above the upturned head.

The baby now quiet, 
mother has slipped
into dark, grey forgetfulness.

Her head rested— just for a minute—
on the bed’s hard rail,
lacking by inches the softer pillow of the
unreachable counterpane.

Eyes closed,
neck stretched— it will surely ache—
lips parted, she’s gone
into sleep’s kingdom.

Night’s long ordeal finally over,
daylight fills the room,
mother and child finally
are at rest.


What poet will ever sing
the story of this war,
the long night waking,
walking, singing, rocking,

losing the battle to hold back
matching tears, to give in
to the sharp words muttered—

Any wonder the cradle songs
whisper darkly of snapping branches,
falling cradles,
and murderous butterflies?

What wars are fought and won
between sunset and dawn?

When all she craves is a scant hour
of stolen sleep. When her bitter foe
is her dearest love, the little tyrant
who reason cannot sway.

Up and down she walks,
the floorboards creaking
under her tired shuffle.

Back and forth she wearily rocks
the sweetly carved cradle,
a torture like none other,

as her heart battles her tired eyes,
aching limbs; as she longs
for just a little, a very little,
rest— Oh won’t you let me rest?

Go to sleep, you little darling,
go to sleep, my pretty baby,
rock a bye, rock a bye…

I’ll buy you a bird that sings,
I’ll give you a diamond ring,
a billy goat, a nice rabbit skin coat,

oh anything your heart desires,
if only you will let me
oh please, wont you let me

sweet little baby, won’t you let me
oh for just a few minutes, won’t you


Like a deer yearns for water,
like the watchman yearns for the dawn
so the mother in the early dawn hours
yearns for sleep.

Yet she will not leave her baby
Tired, she stays at her post,
rocking and singing
the dearest beloved one.

Dawn finds her watching.
But a little while later
she’s slipped away.
Still at her post,
still holding the cradle.

But, the night shift now over,
she is fast asleep.

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