Poetry Wednesday: A Poem My Mother Recited That Helped Shape Me

This is a poem my mother would recited to me. She was the only person among her nine siblings who attended college shown here in her college photograph. Under her name was written: “And heaven’s soft azure in her eye is seen.” It was written about her: “Had she lived when knighthood was in flower we know that those long thick braids would have shone in the dreams of many a gallant knight.”

She became a Boston school teacher. When she married my father she had to keep it a secret because in those days you could not be a married woman teacher. She had to hide not only the marriage but her pregnancy of my older sister, Kathleen, but eventually it caught up with her and she was canned. That was a blessing because she could devote her time to raising her six children. I was her second. She played the piano and the higher keys were when the angels sang.

She loved poetry and memorized more poetry than anyone I knew. She would often recite poetry to me.  I lived the first ten years of my life in a housing project supported by the government surrounded by wonderful parents, five siblings, and happy neighbors. I would not change that for the world.

As far as I knew this is how everyone lived and life was a wonderful gift. This allows me to want to let others have the government assistance my family had knowing how that little help can make all the difference in the world. My father also taught in public schools for a short time, taught at his own private school for police officers and firemen, and worked in the public sector all his life.

My mother taught me value through these poems. This is one that I believe taught me compassion and humility and gratitude and empathy for others. Unfortunately, I have a hard time reciting it to my grandchildren. It’s just too sad.

It is called  “Da Leetla Boy” by Thomas Augustine Daly.

DA spreeng ees com’! but oh, da joy  

Eet ees too late!

He was so cold, my leetla boy,

He no could wait.

I no can count how manny week,

How manny day, dat he ees seeck;

How manny night I seet an’ hold

Da leetla hand dat was so cold.

He was so patience, oh, so sweet!

Eet hurts my throat for theenk of eet;

An’ all he evra ask ees w’en

Ees gona com’ da spreeng agen.

Wan day, wan brighta sunny day,

He see, across da alleyway,

Da leetla girl dat’s livin’ dere

Ees raise her window for da air,

An’ put outside a leetla pot

Of—w’at-you-call?—forgat-me-not.

So smalla flower, so leetla theeng!

But steell eet mak’ hees hearta seeng:

“Oh, now, at las’, ees com’ da spreeng!

Da leetla plant ees glad for know

Da sun ees com’ for mak’ eet grow.

So, too, I am grow warm and strong.”

So lika dat he seeng hees song.

But, Ah! da night com’ down an’ den

Da weenter ees sneak back agen,

An’ een da alley all da night

Ees fall da snow, so cold, so white,

An’ cover up da leetla pot

Of—wa’t-you-call?—forgat-me-not.

ll night da leetla hand I hold

Ees grow so cold, so cold, so cold!

Da spreeng ees com’; but oh, da joy

Eet ees too late!

He was so cold, my leetla boy,

He no could wait.

3 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: A Poem My Mother Recited That Helped Shape Me

  1. Great stuff. I remember at holiday celebrations each of us would be encourage to sing a song, recite a poem, tell a story and the like. (one exception: Bob was not encouraged to play the trombone.)

  2. Hello Matt, My mother had this poem, framed and on our wall at 375 Old Colony. It’s a poem by Henry van Dyke and was recited to your six cousins on a regular basis.
    Let me but do my work From day to day In the field, forest, at the desk or Loom Let me find it in my heart to say This my blessing and not my doom Yes of all who live I am The one by whom This work can best be done And in the right way. Slainte Mhaile

    1. JRC:

      As I remember 375 there was little room on the wall for any poems. I do recall going over there for Friday night fights and as they about Mick McGilligan you had to take the wallpaper off the wall for everyone to fit so how could there have been a poem there.

      I however will accept your memory. It is a beautiful poem. Hope you and the family are surviving well. Too bad about Bill’s wife. If you see him offer my condolences. sláinte agatsa

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