"O mother, lay your hand on my brow! | O mother, mother, where am I now?" In this sad little poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, a mother spends the night at her sick child's bedside.

The Sick Child


Do the Preparation task first. Then go to Text and read the poem or story (you can also listen to the audio while you read). Next go to Task and do the activity.

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The sick child

Child. O mother, lay your hand on my brow!
O mother, mother, where am I now?
Why is the room so gaunt and great?
Why am I lying awake so late?

Mother. Fear not at all: the night is still.
Nothing is here that means you ill.
Nothing but lamps the whole town through,
And never a child awake but you.

Child. Mother, mother, speak low in my ear,
Some of the things are so great and near,
Some are so small and far away,
I have a fear that I cannot say.
What have I done, and what do I fear,
And why are you crying, mother dear?

Mother. Out in the city, sounds begin
Thank the kind God, the carts come in!
An hour or two more and God is so kind,
The day shall be blue in the windowblind,
Then shall my child go sweetly asleep,
And dream of the birds and the hills of sheep.

Task 1

Decide if the statements about the poem are true or false.






In order to say that whether you do a good deed or not, God helps you, protects you and can anytime anywhere send mercy on you, no matter if you have not done a good deed or having seen even a small good deed, He blesses you or may bless you... Is this right to say: God's mercy is unconditional.
Is the word 'unconditional' sensible here in this context?

Hello xhansid,

Yes, that sounds all right to me. If you do an internet search for 'mercy is unconditional', I expect you'll find that others have also said this.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Can we use the world 'children' for a person over twenty. Like if someone has three sons and a daughter and all of them are over twenty. Can we say, ''He has four children''? Does the world 'child' apply only on non-adult offspring?

Hello Zeeshan,

Yes, in this context, when 'children' means a person's offspring, it can refer to people of any age.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

all thanks for you very much. these very important lessons

This poem expresses the pain and helplessness of a mother facing her sick child. This is even more moving than the story is autobiographical. The young Louis Stevenson was seriously ill and suffered from the absence of his mother. 

I think this poem is great. I really got involved on it, so I could really imagine the situation ( the scene), I could really feel the fear and the weakness of the boy; but also the affection, cofidence, care, love that the mother gives to her son!
I really think that the members of our family, are the most important persons in our life. They will be always there for us, in sad and happy moments.
I like poems and I'm good at writing them.

Its really great !!

thanks 4 the lessons

I think the poem is very sad because the little child is very scared, but it's reconforting that his mother is lovely and makes him feel good si he feels safer and can have sweet dreams.
I made a short poem, of what family is for me:
A fairy tale
A movie frame
A fuzz of pain
By Ayerim