Poetry and Lyrics

All being drinks the mother-dew 
Of joy from Nature’s holy bosom;

Schiller. Ode to Joy (1785)

Here the earth covers Hippostrate’s good nurse; 
And Hippostrate still misses you. "I loved you 
While you were alive, nurse, I love you still 
Now even below the earth, and now I shall 
Honour you as long as I live. I know that 
For you below the earth also, if there is 
Reward for the good, honours will come 
First to you in the realm of Persephone and Pluto.

epitaph on grave stele (Athens, 4th century BC)

Where, boundless nature, can I hold you fast? 
And where you breasts? Wells that sustain 
All life--the heaven and the earth are nursed.

Wo fass ich dich, unendliche Natur? 455 
Euch Brüste, wo? Ihr Quellen alles Lebens, 
An denen Himmel und Erde hängt

Goethe. Faust

The child, offered the mother’s breast, 
Will not in the beginning grab it; 
But soon it clings to it with zest. 
And thus at wisdom’s copious breasts 
You'll drink each day with greater zest.

So nimmt ein Kind der Mutter Brust 
Nicht gleich im Anfang willig an, 
Doch bald ernährt es sich mit Lust. 
So wird’s Euch an der Weisheit Brüsten 
Mit jedem Tage mehr gelüsten.

Goethe. Faust. Mephistopheles speaking to the student

Adieu beloved child, you whom I have nourished with my milk and whom I would like to penetrate with all my sentiments. A time will come when you will be able to judge the efforts that I make at this time not to weaken [at the thought of'] your sweet face. I press you to my breast.

Manon Roland, awaiting execution on the guillotine, in a letter to her daughter Eudora

The New World’s Sons, from England’s breasts we drew 
Such milk as bids remember whence we came;

JR Lowell, Inscription, On the Raleigh window in St. Margaret’s, Westminister

Come then, Sorrow! Sweetest Sorrow, 
Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast.

Keats. Endymion, Bk IV, 1, 279

For we were nursed upon the self-same hill

Milton, Lycidas, 1, 23

A little child born yesterday 
A thing on mother’s milk and kisses fed

Homer. Hymn to Hermes, 1:406

A babe is fed with milk and praise

Charles and Mary Lamb. The First Tooth

Gin was mother’s milk to her

GB Shaw. Pygmalion, Act III

... to seek the breast of darkness 
And be suckled by the night.

Simon and Garfunkle. A Poem on the Underground Wall

Lady Madonna baby at your breast 
Wonders how you manage to feed the rest

The Beatles. Lady Madonna

Impassioned lover wrestle as one 
Lonely man cries for love and finds none 
New mother picks up and suckles her son 
Senior citizens wish they were young

Moody Blues. Nights in White Satin

The days are cold, the nights are long, 
The North wind sings a doleful song; 
Then hush again upon my breast; 
All merry things are now at rest, 
Save thee, my pretty love!

Dorothy Wordsworth. The Cottager to her Infant

O, thou beautiful damsel, may the four oceans 
Of the earth contribute the secretion of milk 
In thy breasts for the purpose for improving 
The bodily strength of the child 
O, thou with the beautiful face, may the child 
Reared on your milk, attain a long life, like 
The gods made immortal with drinks of nectar

Susruta Samhita (4th-2nd centuries BC) An English translation of the Susruta Samhita, trans. Bishagratna, KKL (1911)

I think that I shall never see, 
A poem lovely as a tree. 
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed 
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.

Joyce Kilmer. Trees

O would my young, ye saw my breast, 
And knew what thoughts there sadly rest, 
Great was my pain when I you bred, 
Great was my care when I you fed, 
Long did I keep you soft and warm,

Anne Bradstreet. In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest, 
Father will come to thee soon; 
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast, 
Father will come t thee soon;

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Lullaby, from The Princess

Who fed me from her gentle breast 
And hushed me in her arms to rest, 
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest? 
My Mother.

Anne Taylor. My Mother

Untaught, yet wise! mid all thy brief alarms 
Thou closely clingest to thy Mother’s arms, 
Nestling thy little face in that fond breast, 
Whose anxious Heavings lull thee to thy rest!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge. To an Infant

Struggling in thy fathers hands: 
Striving against my swadling bands: 
Bound and weary I thought best 
To sulk upon my mother’s breast.

William Blake. Infant Sorrow

Compiled by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC