The Children We Keep by Mrs. E. V. Wilson

The children kept coming one by one,
Till the boys were five and the girls were three.
And the big brown house was alive with fun,
From the basement floor to the old roof-tree,
Like garden flowers the little ones grew,
Nurtured and trained with tenderest care;
Warmed by love's sunshine, bathed in dew,
They blossomed into beauty rare.
 
But one of the boys grew weary one day,
And leaning his head on his mother's breast,
He said, "I am tired and cannot play;
Let me sit awhile on your knee and rest."
She cradled him close to her fond embrace,
She hushed him to sleep with her sweetest song,
And rapturous love still lightened his face
When his spirit had joined the heavenly throng.
 
Then the eldest girl, with her thoughtful eyes,
Who stood where the "brook and the river meet,"
Stole softly away into Paradise
E'er "the river" had reached her slender feet.
While the father's eyes on the graves were bent,
The mother looked upward beyond the skies:
"Our treasures," she whispered, "were only lent;
Our darlings were angels in earth's disguise."
 
The years flew by, and the children began
With longings to think of the world outside,
And as each in turn became a man,
The boys proudly went from the father's side.
The girls were women so gentle and fair,
That lovers were speedy to woo and to win;
And with orange-blooms in their braided hair,
Their old home they left, new homes to begin.
 
So, one by one the children have gone—
The boys were five, the girls were three;
And the big brown house is gloomy and alone,
With but two old folks for its company.
They talk to each other about the past,
As they sit together at eventide,
And say, "All the children we keep at last
Are the boy and girl who in childhood died."