Limitations of Benevolence by Julia Ward Howe
Limitations of Benevolence was retrieved from the anthology, Gifts of Genius: A Miscellany of Poetry and Prose by American Authors (1859).
“The beggar boy is none of mine,”
The reverend doctor strangely said;
“I do not walk the streets to pour
Chance benedictions on his head.
“And heaven I thank who made me so.
That toying with my own dear child,
I think not on his shivering limbs,
His manners vagabond and wild.”
Good friend, unsay that graceless word!
I am a mother crowned with joy,
And yet I feel a bosom pang
To pass the little starveling boy.
His aching flesh, his fevered eyes
His piteous stomach, craving meat;
His features, nipt of tenderness,
And most, his little frozen feet.
Oft, by my fireside’s ruddy glow,
I think, how in some noisome den,
Bred up with curses and with blows,
He lives unblest of gods or men.
I cannot snatch him from his fate,
The tribute of my doubting mind
Drops, torch-like, in the abyss of ill,
That skirts the ways of humankind.
But, as my heart’s desire would leap
To help him, recognized of none,
I thank the God who left him this,
For many a precious right foregone.
My mother, whom I scarcely knew,
Bequeathed this bond of love to me;
The heart parental thrills for all
The children of humanity.