Mother, Come Back from the Echoless Shore

A famous Mother's Day tribute from the 1860s.

Mother kissing her baby.
Credit: Photodisc

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Any guest at a late-1800s party would be expected to help with the entertaining. If you couldn’t play an instrument or sing for the other guests, you could recite, at least. But you would have to memorize your piece well in advance. The other guests would want to hear a dramatic or humorous recitation, or a poem. Among the most popular poems for recitation were Thayer’s “Casey At The Bat,” Moore’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and “Rock Me To Sleep” by Elizabeth Akers Allen.

This last piece doesn’t enjoy the popularity that “Casey” and “Christmas” still enjoy, but in its time it was enormously popular. Its yearning for mother and a less troubled life resonated strongly in Americans in the years following the Civil War.

It was first published by The Saturday Evening Post in 1860.

Rock Me to Sleep

by 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 tonight 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 tonight,
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!

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  1. Your earliest fan, she loved you before you drew breath. You have no closer friend, no more generous supporter. Giving defines her; giving to you, fulfills her. She is the world’s greatest housekeeper, the best cook, most attentive nurse. There is little she can’t talk, hug, kiss or chicken-soup away.
    A mother is evil’s worst enemy–not only because she staunchly defends those she loves–but because she knows how to pray. Saints and sages tell us that the devil trembles at a mother’s prayers. Perhaps he knows what we sometimes forget: Mothers are one of God’s truest, most powerful blessings.


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