Orphans Of The Living

We think of orphans only as little girls and lads,

Who haven’t any mothers and who haven’t any dads.

They are grouped with other children and in groups they’re put to bed

With some stranger paid to listen while their little prayers are said.

All the grown-ups look with pity on such lonely children small

And declare to be an orphan is the saddest fate of all.

But sometime I look about me and with sorrow hang my head

As I gaze on something sadder than the orphans of the dead. 

Far more pitiful and tragic as the long days come and go

Are the orphans of the parents they’re not allowed to know.

They’re orphans of the living, left alone to romp and play. From their fathers and their mothers by ambition shut away. 

They have fathers who are busy and so weighted down with cares

That they haven’t time to listen to a little child’s affairs.

They have mothers who imagine life could give them, if it would, 

Something richer, something better than the joys of motherhood.

So their children learn from strangers, and by stranger’s hands are fed,

And the nurse, for so much money, nightly tucked them into bed.

Lord, I would not grow so busy that I cannot drop my task

To answer every question which that child of mine may ask.

Let me never serve ambition here so selfishly, I pray, 

That I cannot stop to listen to the things my children have to say.

For whatever cares beset them, let them knowI’m standing by.

I don’t want to make them orphans till the day I come to die.