The HyperTexts

The Best Mother's Day Poems of All Time
The Best Poems, Songs and Quotes about Mothers

Which poets wrote the best Mother's Day poems and/or poems about mothers? And why are there so few poems about their mothers by the great poets? Shouldn't the most intimate human relationship—between a mother and child—inspire more great poems?

Famous poets, songwriters and philosophers who thankfully did write about mothers include Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg, Conrad Aiken, Honore de Balzac, William Blake, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Burns, Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes, Rudyard Kipling, Philip Larkin, D. H. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Whitman, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Kanye West.

These are my personal top ten poems about mothers: "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes, "To My Mother" by Christina Rossetti, "Piano" by D. H. Lawrence, "Mother o' Mine" by Rudyard Kipling, "The Negro Mother" by Langston Hughes, "Sonnet to My Mother" by George Barker, "To My Mother" by Edgar Allen Poe, "To My Mother" by Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Mother" by Gwendolyn Brooks, and "In Memory of My Mother" by Patrick Kavanagh.

compiled by Michael R. Burch

Before I give a brief history of Mother's Day and share some of the best Mother's Day poems ever writtenin my opinion for whatever it's worthI would like to dedicate the poem below, which is free to copy and use for noncommercial purposes, to the two best mothers I know personally: my mother, Christine Ena Burch, and my wife, Elizabeth Harris Burch ...

Mother’s Smile
by Michael R. Burch

There never was a fonder smile
than mother’s smile, no softer touch
than mother’s touch. So sleep awhile
and know she loves you more than “much.”

So more than “much,” much more than “all.”
Though tender words, these do not speak
of love at all, nor how we fall
and mother’s there, nor how we reach
from nightmares in the ticking night
and she is there to hold us tight.

There never was a stronger back
than father’s back, that held our weight
and lifted us, when we were small,
and bore us till we reached the gate,
then held our hands that first bright mile
till we could run, and did, and flew.
But, oh, a mother’s tender smile
will leap and follow after you!

Mother's Day celebrates and honors mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in human society. Modern celebrations occur throughout the world, recalling ancient festivals in honor of Isis, Cybele, Gaia, Artemis, Venus, Ceres, Danu and other mother goddesses. Those goddesses may be based on an older, more universal Terra Mater (Earth Mother), as seen in stone carvings that date back to at least 24,000 BC. However, the modern holidays are based on an American invention not directly descended from the more ancient celebrations.

Our modern Mother's Day celebration probably begins with Julia Ward Howe, an American poet who was inspired to write the stirring lines of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" after meeting Abraham Lincoln in November 1861. Howe wrote her lyrics to the melody of the song "John Brown's Body," a tribute to the best-known martyr of the abolitionist movement. Howe's lyrics were published by the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862 and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" quickly became one of the most popular songs of the Civil War era, at least in Union camps. It remains a favorite song of civil rights workers around the world.

Howe was dismayed by the massive suffering and destruction caused by the Civil War, so in 1870 she wrote a "Mother's Day Proclamation" which called for a "Mother's Day for Peace" and asked women around the world to join the cause of world peace. But Mother's Day did not become an official American holiday until the efforts of Anna Jarvis paid off in 1914. Jarvis never mentioned Howe and their ideas may have developed independently. But in any case, I like the idea of world peace movement inspired by the love and compassion of good mothers, so the poems I have chosen for this page honor the best attributes of the best mothers.



All that I am,
or ever can be,
I owe to my angel mother.
Abraham Lincoln



Amir Khusrow’s elegy for his mother
translation by Michael R. Burch

Wherever you shook the dust from your feet
is my relic of paradise!



Motherhood is the exquisite inconvenience of being another person’s everything.
—Unknown



To My Mother
by Christina Rossetti

Today's your natal day;
Sweet flowers I bring:
Mother, accept, I pray
My offering.

And may you happy live,
And long us bless;
Receiving as you give
Great happiness.



A man may attempt to burnish pure gold,
but who can think to improve on his mother?
—Mahatma Gandhi, translation by Michael R. Burch



Love has a gentle grace
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth on Mother’s Day

Love has a gentle grace; you have not seen her
unless you’ve looked into your mother’s eyes
and seen her faith
—serene, composed and wise—
that you’re the center of her very being
(as once, indeed, she carried you inside.)

Love has no wilder beauty than the thought
that you’re the best of all she ever sought.

(And if, perhaps, you don’t believe my song,
can your mother be wrong?)



My Mother
by Anne Taylor

Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
                    My Mother!



Mother: the most beautiful word on the lips of mankind.
—Kahil Gibran



Piano
by D. H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.



Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime ...
—William Shakespeare, "Sonnet III"




Bread and Music
by Conrad Aiken

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,—
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.



Here is a thing my heart wishes the world had more of:
I heard it in the air of one night when I listened
To a mother singing softly to a child restless and angry in the darkness.
—Carl Sandburg, "Home"



First Miracle
by A. E. Stallings

Her body like a pomegranate torn
Wide open, somehow bears what must be born,

The irony where a stranger small enough
To bed down in the ox-tongue-polished trough

Erupts into the world and breaks the spell
Of the ancient, numbered hours with his yell.

Now her breasts ache and weep and soak her shirt
Whenever she hears his hunger or his hurt;

She can’t change water into wine; instead
She fashions sweet milk out of her own blood.



The Greatest of These ...
by Michael R. Burch

The hands that held me tremble.
The arms that lifted
                              fall.

Angelic flesh, now parchment,
is held together with gauze.

But her undimmed eyes still embrace me;
there infinity can be found.

I can almost believe such love
will reach me, underground.



We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.
—Laura Stavoe Harm



Let Us Be Midwives!
by Kurihara Sadako, a Hiroshima survivor
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Midnight . . .
the basement of a shattered building . . .
atomic bomb survivors sniveling in the darkness . . .
not a single candle between them . . .
the odor of blood . . .
the stench of death . . .
the sickly-sweet smell of decaying humanity . . .
the groans . . .
the moans . . .
Out of all that, suddenly, miraculously, a voice:
"The baby's coming!"
In the hellish basement, unexpectedly,
a young mother had gone into labor.
In the dark, lacking a single match, what to do?
Scrambling to her side,
forgetting their own . . .



Motherhood is the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary—it’s an act of infinite optimism.
—Gilda Radner



For My Mother
by May Sarton

I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.



To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.
—Maya Angelou



Childless
by Michael R. Burch

How can she bear her grief?
Mightier than Atlas, she shoulders the weight
Of one fallen star.



Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for loving, compassionate, courageous mothers everywhere

There was, in your touch, such tenderness—as
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now—
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay?

Time taught you tenderness—time, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?—insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask—

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?



The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.
—St. Therese of Lisieux



Tribute to Mother
by John Greenleaf Whittier

A picture memory brings to me;
I look across the years and see
Myself beside my mother’s knee.
I feel her gentle hand restrain
My selfish moods, and know again
A child’s blind sense of wrong and pain.
But wiser now, a man gray grown,
My childhood’s needs are better known.
My mother’s chastening love I own.



Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.
—William Makepeace Thackeray



Mother o' Mine
by Rudyard Kipling

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!



Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall;
A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes



I Cannot Remember My Mother
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes in the middle of my playing
a melody seemed to hover over my playthings:
some forgotten tune she loved to sing
while rocking my cradle.

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes on an early autumn morning
the smell of the shiuli flowers fills my room
as the scent of the temple’s morning service
wafts over me like my mother’s perfume.

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes still, from my bedroom window,
when I lift my eyes to the heavens’ vast blue canopy
and sense on my face her serene gaze,
I feel her grace has encompassed the sky.



Waves sing the children meaningless songs,
like a mother lullabying her baby's cradle
—Rabindranath Tagore, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Morning Song
by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.



My thoughts return to my Mother and Father:
late autumn
―Yosa Buson, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



The Age of Infancy
by Allama Iqbal
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The earth and sky remained unknown to me
The expanse of my mother's bosom was my only world

Her every movement communicated life's pleasures to me
Yet my own voice conveyed only meaningless words ...



May I be with my mother
wearing her summer kimono
by the morning window
―Ippekiro Nakatsuka, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Mother to Son
by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.



An ounce of mother
is worth a ton of priest.
Spanish Proverb



Mother
by Lola Ridge (born Rose Emily Ridge)

Mother
Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.



The phrase ’working mother’ is redundant.
—Jane Sellman



There Was a Child Went Forth (excerpt)
by Walt Whitman

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her
person
and
clothes as she walks by...



My mother is a walking miracle.
—Leonardo DiCaprio



Sonnet to My Mother
by George Barker

Most near, most dear, most loved, and most far,
Under the huge window where I often found her
Sitting as huge as Asia, seismic with laughter,
Gin and chicken helpless in her Irish hand,
Irresistible as Rabelais but most tender for
The lame dogs and hurt birds that surround her,—
She is a procession no one can follow after
But be like a little dog following a brass band.
She will not glance up at the bomber or condescend
To drop her gin and scuttle to a cellar,
But lean on the mahogany table like a mountain
Whom only faith can move, and so I send
O all her faith and all my love to tell her
That she will move from mourning into morning.



Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.
—George Eliot



Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth, Laura and all good mothers

Bring your peculiar strength
to the strange nightmarish fray:
wrap up your cherished ones
in the golden light of day.

                   Amen



Only One Mother
by George Cooper

Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shells on the shore together,
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of lambs in the sunny weather.

Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.



We are born of love; love is our mother.
—Rumi



Your Gift
by Michael R. Burch

for Beth

Counsel, console.
This is your gift.
Calm, kiss and encourage.
Tenderly lift
each world-wounded heart
from its fatal dart.
Mend every rift.
Bid pain, “Depart!”
Save every sorrow
for your own untaught heart.



The Mother
by Robert William Service

Your children grow from you apart,
Afar and still afar;
And yet it should rejoice your heart
To see how glad they are;
In school and sport, in work and play,
And last, in wedded bliss,
How others claim with joy to-day
The lips you used to kiss.

Your children distant will become,
And wide the gulf will grow;
The lips of loving will be dumb,
The trust you used to know
Will in another's heart repose,
Another's voice will cheer...
And you will fondle baby clothes
And brush away a tear.

But though you are estranged almost,
And often lost to view,
How you will see a little ghost
Who ran to cling to you!
Yet maybe children's children will
Caress you with a smile...
Grandmother love will bless you still,—
Well, just a little while.



The heart of a mother is a deep abyss
at the bottom of which you will always find
forgiveness.
Honore de Balzac



Sonnet for My Mother
by Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart's quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.



A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.
—Victor Hugo



To My Mother
by Edgar Allen Poe

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of "Mother,"
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia's spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.



When you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.
—Mitch Albom



To My Mother
by Robert Louis Stevenson

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.



Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.
—Robert Browning



My mother would be a falconress (excerpt)
by Robert Duncan

My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,
where I dream in my little hood with many bells
jangling when I'd turn my head.



God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.
—Rudyard Kipling



Mother on Mother's Day
by Joanne Bailey Baxter

For she had fulfilled his prophesy
Spreading love, honor, and hope
She instilled in those she left behind
The ability to understand and cope.



A man may work from sun to sun,
but a mother’s work is never done.
—Anonymous proverb



The Negro Mother
by Langston Hughes

Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face—dark as the night—
Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.
I am the one who labored as a slave,
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave—
Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too.
No safety, no love, no respect was I due.

Three hundred years in the deepest South:
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth.
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.

Now, through my children, young and free,
I realized the blessing deed to me.
I couldn't read then. I couldn't write.
I had nothing, back there in the night.
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears,
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun,
But I had to keep on till my work was done:
I had to keep on! No stopping for me—
I was the seed of the coming Free.
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast—the Negro mother.
I had only hope then, but now through you,
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true:
All you dark children in the world out there,
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow—
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.
Make of my pass a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.
Lift high my banner out of the dust.
Stand like free men supporting my trust.
Believe in the right, let none push you back.
Remember the whip and the slaver's track.
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life—
But march ever forward, breaking down bars.
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs—
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.



It’s not easy being a mother. If it were, fathers would do it.
—The Golden Girls



Rock Me to Sleep, Mother (excerpt)
by Elizabeth Chase Akers Allen

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight;
Make me a child again, just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads from my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother,—rock me to sleep!



If evolution really works, how come mothers have only two hands?
—Milton Berle



My Mother, Summer, I
by Philip Larkin

My mother, who hates thunder storms,
Holds up each summer day and shakes
It out suspiciously, lest swarms
Of grape-dark clouds are lurking there;
But when the August weather breaks
And rains begin, and brittle frost
Sharpens the bird-abandoned air,
Her worried summer look is lost,

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness
I can't confront: I must await
A time less bold, less rich, less clear:
An autumn more appropriate.



Sappho’s Lullaby
by Michael R. Burch

for Jeremy

Hushed yet melodic, the hills and the valleys
sleep unaware of the nightingale's call
while the dew-laden lilies lie
listening,
glistening . . .
this is their night, the first night of fall.

Son, tonight, a woman awaits you;
she is more vibrant, more lovely than spring.
She'll meet you in moonlight,
soft and warm,
all alone . . .
then you'll know why the nightingale sings.

Just yesterday the stars were afire;
then how desire flashed through my veins!
But now I am older;
night has come,
I’m alone . . .
for you I will sing as the nightingale sings.




Sappho's Rose
by Michael R. Burch

for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The rose is—
the ornament of the earth,
the glory of nature,
the archetype of the flowers,
the blush of the meadows,
a lightning flash of beauty.

NOTE: This is my translation/interpretation of a Sappho epigram.



But we must never forget that mothers are also sweethearts and lovers ...



A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns

Oh my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
Oh my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!



Come Slowly, Eden
by Emily Dickinson

Come slowly, Eden
Lips unused to thee.
Bashful, sip thy jasmines,
As the fainting bee,
Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums,
Counts his nectars—alights,
And is lost in balms!



Lullaby
by W. H. Auden

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm:
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost.
All the dreaded cards foretell.
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought.
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find our mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.



To Celia
by Ben Jonson

Drink to me, only, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise,
Doth ask a drink divine:
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee, late, a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st back to me:
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.



She Walks In Beauty
by Lord Bryon

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!



How Do I Love Thee?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.



Meeting at Night
by Robert Browning

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!



The Silken Tent
by Robert Frost

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To everything on earth the compass round,
And only by one's going slightly taut
In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.



Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.



I Knew A Woman
by Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)



And mothers are formidable women in their own right ...



Love Is Not All
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.



Advice to a Girl
by Sara Teasdale

No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed;
Lay that on your heart,
My young angry dear;
This truth, this hard and precious stone,
Lay it on your hot cheek,
Let it hide your tear.
Hold it like a crystal
When you are alone
And gaze in the depths of the icy stone.
Long, look long and you will be blessed:
No one worth possessing
Can be quite possessed.



The Solitary
by Sara Teasdale

My heart has grown rich with the passing of years,
   I have less need now than when I was young
To share myself with every comer
   Or shape my thoughts into words with my tongue.
It is one to me that they come or go
   If I have myself and the drive of my will,
And strength to climb on a summer night
   And watch the stars swarm over the hill.
Let them think I love them more than I do,
   Let them think I care, though I go alone;
If it lifts their pride, what is it to me
   Who am self-complete as a flower or a stone.



Mothers are also mortal women, subject to time and death ...



When You Are Old
by William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.



Requiescat
by Oscar Wilde

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.



Memory of My Mother
by Eunice de Chazeau

She saw him, knew, and waited for a year
that he should ask; then gave her perishable body
without vanity. Leaving the rectangular
town and reassurance of deep sod, she
followed him where crag and glacier
stab the sun, and rivers plunging flay
their stones. She lay beside him on sand, her
dreams unsheltered from the Milky Way.

Had she known how quickly days would spill
their splendor, only dregs of time be left
had she known how at last, and by his will,
her ashes and bones would be strewn to drift
with his in troughs of ocean, nevertheless,
eyes wide with fear, she would have answered yes.



Methought I Saw
by John Milton

Methought I saw my late espousèd saint
    Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave,
    Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,
    Rescued from Death by force, though pale and faint.
Mine, as whom washed from spot of childbed taint
    Purification in the Old Law did save,
    And such, as yet once more I trust to have
    Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint,
Came vested all in white, pure as her mind.
    Her face was veiled; yet to my fancied sight
    Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined
So clear as in no face with more delight.
    But O, as to embrace me she inclined,
    I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night.



Mothers live on through the children they love so dearly ...



Cradle Song
by William Blake

Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
Dreaming in the joys of night;
Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.

Sweet babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace,
Secret joys and secret smiles,
Little pretty infant wiles.

As thy softest limbs I feel
Smiles as of the morning steal
O'er thy cheek, and o'er thy breast
Where thy little heart doth rest.

O the cunning wiles that creep
In thy little heart asleep!
When thy little heart doth wake,
Then the dreadful night shall break.



And of course there are moments of humor ...



Two Post-Mother’s-Day Poems

We desperately need a Mother Recovers Day!
by Michael R. Burch

Mother’s Day!
Lovers’ Day!
Adulation Re-Smothers Day!
Hugs ’n kisses galore
till she’s tired and bone-sore.
Now, like a needle in the hay,
she needs to find a Recovers Day!

Mother’s Day Replay
by Michael R. Burch

Mother’s Day!
Lovers’ Day!
This Hug-and-Kiss Smothers Day
when a roll in the hay
conjures babies, olé!
(Please, children, ignore these verses, okay?)



The Poet's Condition
by Michael R. Burch

The poet's condition
(bother tradition)
is whining contrition.
Supposedly sage,

his editor knows
his brain's in his toes
though he would suppose
to soon be the rage.

His readers are sure
his work's premature
or merely manure,
insipidly trite.

His mother alone
will answer the phone
(perhaps with a moan)
to hear him recite.



Relative Theories
by Michael R. Burch

Hawking, who makes my head spin,
says time may flow backward. I grin,
imagining the surprise
in my mother’s eyes
when I head for the womb once again!



My mother’s eyes
acknowledging my imperfection:
dejection
Michael R. Burch



Notable poems and songs about mothers ...



Lady Madonna by the Beatles
Let It Be by the Beatles (written by Paul McCartney after a dream in which his departed mother told him to "Let it be")
Julia by the Beatles (written by John Lennon for his mother Julia, who passed away in 1958)
The Chimney Sweeper ("When my mother died I was very young") by William Blake
The Angel that Presided O'er My Birth by William Blake
A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi by Gwendolyn Brooks
Mother and Poet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Ah, Woe Is Me, My Mother Dear by Robert Burns
My Mama Moved Among the Days by Lucille Clifton
Mindless Child of Motherhood by Dave Davies and the Kinks
Tough Mama by Bob Dylan
Child and Mother by Eugene Field
Mama Tried by Merle Haggard
The Mother Mourns by Thomas Hardy
Mother's Little Helper by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones
To Una by Robinson Jeffers
Fawn's Foster Mother by Robinson Jeffers
Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
Rosalinda’s Eyes by Billy Joel (written for his mother Rosalinda)
Mother I Cannot Mind My Wheel by Sappho as translated by Walter Savage Landor
Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
I Ask My Mother to Sing by Li-Young Lee
Woman by John Lennon
My Mother by Claude McKay
Tie Your Mother Down by Freddie Mercury and Queen
The Courage that My Mother Had by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The Sad Mother by Gabriela Mistral
Mama Told Me (Not to Come) by Randy Newman and performed by Three Dog Night
Mama I'm Coming Home by Ozzy Osbourne
Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton
Prayer for a New Mother by Dorothy Parker
Medusa by Sylvia Plath
I Am a Wicked Child by Radiohead
Ave Maria by Sir Walter Scott
Mother and Child Reunion by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel
Shop Around by Smoky Robinson and the Miracles
Mama Said by the Shirelles
Mother Among the Dustbins by Stevie Smith
The Wish by Bruce Springsteen
The Best Day by Taylor Swift
The Mother of a Poet by Sara Teasdale
(Mama's Got a) Squeeze Box by Pete Townshend of The Who
To Mother by Marina Tsvetaeva
Mama's Song by Carrie Underwood
Hey Mama by Kanye West
Mother and Babe by Walt Whitman

The HyperTexts