The Mother's Lament at the Slaughter of the Innocents

by Alfred Perceval Graves

Then, as the executioner plucked her son from her breast, one of the women said:

"Why are you tearing
Away to his doom,
The child of my caring,
The fruit of my womb.
Till nine months were o'er
His burden I bore,
Then his pretty lips pressed
The glad milk from my breast,
And my whole heart he filled,
And my whole life he thrilled.
All my strength dies,
My tongue speechless lies,
Darkened are my eyes!
His breath was the breath of me;
His death is the death of me."
Then another woman said:
"'Tis my own son that from me you wring,
I deceived not the King.
 But slay me, even me,
And let my boy be.
A mother most hapless,
My bosom is sapless,
Mine eyes one tearful river,
My frame one fearful, shiver,
My husband sonless ever,
And I a sonless wife
To live a death in life.
O my son! O God of Truth!
O my unrewarded youth,
O my birthless sicknesses
Until doom without redress.
O my bosom's silent nest,
O the heart broke in my breast."
Then said another woman:
"Murderers, obeying
Herod's wicked willing,
One ye would be slaying,
Many are ye killing.
Infants would ye smother?
Ruffian, ye have rather
Wounded many a father,
Slaughtered many a mother.
Hell's black jaws your horrid deed is glutting,
Heaven's white gate against your black souls shutting.
Ye are guilty of the Great Offence!
Ye have spilled the blood of Innocence."

And yet another woman said:
"O Lord Christ, come to me!
Nay, no longer tarry!
With my son home to Thee
My soul quickly carry.
O Mary great, O Mary mild,
Of God's One Son the Mother,
What shall I do without my child?
For I have now no other.
For Thy Son's sake my son they slew,
Those murderers inhuman;
My sense and soul they slaughtered too,
I am but a crazy woman.
Yea, after that most piteous slaughter,
When my babe's life ran out like water,
The heart within my bosom hath become
A clot of blood from this day till the Doom!"