‘The Lambs of Grasmere’, its title referring to the Lake District, that area of England forever associated with Wordsworth and Romantic poetry, focuses on what Christina Rossetti (1830-94) calls the ‘pastureless wet pasture ground’ and the lambs which are saved from starvation by the shepherds, who come each day with bottles of milk to feed them.
The Lambs of Grasmere
The upland flocks grew starved and thinned;
Their shepherds scarce could feed the lambs
Whose milkless mothers butted them,
Or who were orphaned of their dams.
The lambs athirst for mother’s milk
Filled all the place with piteous sounds:
Their mothers’ bones made white for miles
The pastureless wet pasture grounds.
Day after day, night after night,
From lamb to lamb the shepherds went,
With teapots for the bleating mouths
Instead of nature’s nourishment.
The little shivering gaping things
Soon knew the step that brought them aid,
And fondled the protecting hand,
And rubbed it with a woolly head.
Then, as the days waxed on to weeks,
It was a pretty sight to see
These lambs with frisky heads and tails
Skipping and leaping on the lea,
Bleating in tender, trustful tones,
Resting on rocky crag or mound.
And following the beloved feet
That once had sought for them and found.
These very shepherds of their flocks,
These loving lambs so meek to please,
Are worthy of recording words
And honour in their due degrees:
So I might live a hundred years,
And roam from strand to foreign strand,
Yet not forget this flooded spring
And scarce-saved lambs of Westmoreland.
If you enjoyed ‘The Lambs of Grasmere’, you might also like these other classic Christina Rossetti poems. For more information about the poet, we recommend our short and interesting biography of Christina Rossetti.