A group of soft-eyed children stood
Beside a tiny sod,
And round the small and new-closed grave
With quiet steps they trod.
It was a simple grassy mound,
Like a young infant’s bed,
With naught to mark the spot save one
Stone cross placed at its head.
And lightly did the children move
So softly to and fro,
As though they feared they might disturb
The child who slept below.
And in their deep black frocks they held
A heap of flowers bright,
‘Mong which there was the rose of red,
The lily pure and white.
And swiftly did the fingers ply
Of each small childish hand,
While for the infant sister’s grave
They wove a flow’ry band.
The solemn stillness of that spot
Their voices scarcely broke;
Low whisper’d was each word that they
Unto each other spoke.
“Oh! let this lily, sister dear,”
The smallest young one said,
“Be placed just here that it may hang
Above poor baby’s head.
“For oh! it is so fair and pure,”
The little creature sigh’d,
“In robes of spotless white, so like
Poor baby when she died,
“And if she can from heaven behold,
I’m sure she’ll love to see
That we have placed upon her grave
This type of purity.”
- Family Friend. THE HON. A. ANNESLEY.

Title:The Little Sister's Grave

Author:The Hon. A. Annesley

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:March 15th 1862

Keywords:death, sorrow


This poem republished from Family Friend, by the Hon. A. Annersley, is a typically Victorian sentimental poem, evoking children’s vulnerability, innocence, and purity. However, published in the context of the Cotton famine, with its huge attendant rise in infant mortality, it is given extra relevance and poignancy. The poem’s imagery utilises the Victorian language of flowers in its figuring of the lily, which is symbolic not just of purity, as mentioned in the poem, but also of death. It is also not clear whether the repeated adjective ‘poor’, when referring to the deceased child, is a reference to economic status. – SR