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Rock Me to Sleep
Elizabeth 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 out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—     
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—     
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—  
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—   
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother – rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I to-night for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—      
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—     
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead to-night,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—   
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—     
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

This poem is in the public domain.


Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832 – 1911) was a journalist and poet. She used the pen name of Florence Percy for much of her early work, some of which was published when she was only 12. Born in Maine, Elizabeth lived in Italy, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey before ultimately settling in New York. She worked as an editor, European correspondent, government clerk, and Civil War nurse in the course of her career, publishing eight books of poetry and one novel along the way.




Post New Comment:
What an interesting poem - an older woman missing her mother. I agree. I miss mine every day.
Posted 05/06/2020 12:44 PM
So moving.
Posted 05/05/2020 02:55 PM
Thanks, Jayne, for unearthing this poem. There's a marvelous modern rendition sung by Cathie Ryan at It's amazing how a guitar and dobro, plus a fiddle or two, can bring the past to the present.
Posted 05/05/2020 12:23 PM
Awwww. I love this poem. Thanks for posting it, Jayne!!
Posted 05/05/2020 10:04 AM
michael escoubas:
I always marvel at the superb diction and rhyming skill of 19th century poets. This poem is both heart-felt in message and instructive in craft. Thank you Jayne!
Posted 05/05/2020 08:58 AM
As always, thank you for researching and posting so many earlier American poems and poets. Very enjoyable. This piece is so nicely lyrical. Here's a little more current rendition of it: Randy
Posted 05/05/2020 08:04 AM

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