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The Children

From the Grand Forks Daily Herald, November 28, 1914. By Charles Dickens.

When the lessons and tasks are all ended
    And the school for the day is dismissed,
And the little ones gather around me
    To bid me “good night,” and be kissed;
O, the little white arms that encircle
    My neck in a tender embrace;
O, the smiles that are halos of Heaven,
    Shedding the sunshine of love on my face.

And when they are gone I set dreaming
    Of my childhood, too lovely to last;
Of love that my heart will remember
    When it wakes to the pulse of the past.
Ere the world and its wickedness made me
    A partner of sorrow and sin,
When the glory of God was about me
    And the glory of gladness within.

O, my heart grows weak as a woman’s,
    And the fountains of feeling will flow,
When I think of the paths, steep and stony
    Where the feet of the dear ones must go;
Of the mountains of sin hanging o’er them,
    Of the tempests of fate blowing wild;
O, there is nothing on earth half so holy
    As the innocent heart of a child.

They are idols of hearts and of households,
    They are angels of God in disguise;
His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses,
    His glory still gleams in their eyes.
O, those truants from home and from Heaven,
    They have made me manly and mild
And I know now how Jesus could liken
    The kingdom of God to a child.

I ask not a life for the dear ones
    All radiant, as others have done.
But that life may have just enough shadow
    To temper the glare of the sun.
I would pray God to guard them from evil
    But my prayers would bound back to myself
Ah, a seraph may pray for a sinner,
    But a sinner must pray for himself.

The twig is so easily bended,
    I have banished the rule and the rod;
I have taught them the goodness of knowledge,
    They have taught me the wisdom of God.
My heart is a dungeon of darkness,
    Where I shut them from breaking a rule.
My frown is sufficient correction
    My love is the law of the school.

I shall leave the old house in the Autumn
    To traverse its threshold no more.
Ah, how I shall sigh for the dear ones
    That mustered each morn at the door!
I shall miss the “good nights” and the kisses
    And the gush of their innocent glee,
The group on the green and the flowers
    That are brought every morning to me.

I shall miss them at morn and at eve,
    Their song in the school and the street;
I shall miss the low hum of their voices
    And the tramp of their delicate feet.
When the lessons and tasks are all ended,
    And Death says “the school is dismissed,”
May the little ones gather around me,
    To bid me “good night” and be kissed.

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