The Night of Death

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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Twas a night of dreadful horror, --
Death was sweeping through the land;
And the wings of dark destruction
Were outstretched from strand to strand

Strong men's hearts grew faint with terror,
As the tempest and the waves
Wrecked their homes and swept them downward,
Suddenly to yawning graves.

'Mid the wastes of ruined households,
And the tempest's wild alarms,
Stood a terror-stricken mother
With a child within her arms.

Other children huddled 'round her,
Each one nestling in her heart;
Swift in thought and swift in action,
She at least from one must part.

Then she said unto her daughter,
"Strive to save one child from death."
"Which one?" said the anxious daughter,
As she stood with bated breath.

Oh! the anguish of that mother;
What despair was in her eye!
All her little ones were precious;
Which one should she leave to die?

Then outspake the brother Bennie:
"I will take the little one."
"No," exclaimed the anxious mother;
"No, my child, it can't be done."

"See! my boy, the waves are rising,
Save yourself and leave the child!"
"I will trust in Christ," he answered;
Grasped the little one and smiled.

Through the roar of wind and waters
Ever and anon she cried;
But throughout the night of terror
Never Bennie's voice replied.

But above the waves' wild surging
He had found a safe retreat,
As if God had sent an angel,
Just to guide his wandering feet.

When the storm had spent its fury,
And the sea gave up its dead
She was mourning for her loved ones,
Lost amid that night of dread.

While her head was bowed in anguish,
On her ear there fell a voice,
Bringing surcease to her sorrow,
Bidding all her heart rejoice.

"Didn't I tell you true?" said Bennie,
And his eyes were full of light,
"When I told you God would help me
Through the dark and dreadful night?"

And he placed the little darling
Safe within his mother's arms,
Feeling Christ had been his guardian,
'Mid the dangers and alarms.

Oh! for faith so firm and precious,
In the darkest, saddest night,
Till life's gloom-encircled shadows
Fade in everlasting light.

And upon the mount of vision
We our loved and lost shall greet,
With earth's wildest storms behind us,
And its cares beneath our feet.

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  • lashundabuie38

    Wow, this poem really pacts a punch! The bit where the mother has to decide which child to save is so heartrenching. I can't even begin to fathom the despair and anxiety she must've felt. Just makes you think that our everyday troubles ain't that big. Poems like this really make you ponder.