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 Est. 1998

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Quotations about Childlessness


In childless women's eyes
      A misery of lacking lies;
      Under their gaiety is woe
      And this, one feels, they do not know:
The glad joy of the blue bird winging—
      The freshness of the morning singing—
      The depths of roses brightly blowing—
      The soul of things they should be knowing—
In childless women's eyes
      There shines no glimpse of paradise—
      Their loss, who miss the high white cross
      Of motherhood, eternal loss.
~George Elliston, "Childless Women," 1922

It is so odd to think of myself as an uncle. I should have laughed at twenty if one had told me that forty would find me wifeless and childless. But so it is, and I shall go and play “Uncle John” at Christmas to the children of wiser and happier folk... ~John Richard Green, 1876

Lady, the sun's light to our eyes is dear,
And fair the tranquil reaches of the sea,
And flowery earth in May, and bounding waters;
And so right many fair things I might praise;
Yet nothing is so radiant and so fair
As for souls childless, with desire sore-smitten,
To see the light of babes about the house.
~Euripides (c. 484–406 BCE)

The house of the childless is empty; and so is the heart of him that hath no wife. ~Hitopadesa

For thirty Moons-of-Flowers-and-Grass she waited,
Waited for something, something that never came...
Wasted by years, by hungers unfulfilled,
Companioned by a hound on whom she rains
Her ardor, lets fall her virtues one by one
To earth like petals withered... wilted, waiting,
Waiting for pollen-bearing winds to come
From out a far low country, a venturing moth,
A roving bee, a bird, a butterfly.
~Lew Sarett, "Rattling-Claw," Slow Smoke, 1925

Two Spirits at the childless widow's bed,
Childless no more, have by the pitying heavens
Been sent...
~John Wilson, c.1831

Beside a half-extinguished fire they sat,
A married childless pair, with heads scarce grey.
Three times since wedlock, so the wise men say,
Had been renewed their bodies:  bone and fat,
Tissue and skin, and nerve, had died away...
Thrice changed in body since the joyous day
They sat, and read old scrolls less changed than they...
'If God had sent us Children,' she said, intent to link
The futile years, 'all might be different.'
And then they wept; but not for love they wept,
But for dead time, and all the things that were.
Old Time! of whom they held themselves the heir,
Who promised all, but ne'er a promise kept!...
~V. A. R., "Middle Age," Poems, 1867  [a little altered —tg]

He that has no children brings them up well. ~Proverb

I lived for excitement... and my life was gay.
I loved the nightclubs, wine, women and song,
And what cared I if these things were called wrong?!...
Then came the war; and I went with the rest
To learn my lessons, with death as a guest.
I learned what a mockery I'd made of life
In searching for thrills, not accepting strife.
The days and nights that I spent overseas,
The bombing of cities, of people, of trees.
The sorrow I saw, the heartbreak, the tears,
Made me so conscious of my wasted years.
I saw, as a vision, my empty life,
No one to love me, no children nor wife.
I vowed, if I were released from that Hell
Of hating and killing, of shot and shell,
That my life I would consecrate anew—
To my Heavenly Father I'd be true!...
But God decreed that it was not to be!
And, now, my mistakes I can, plainly, see...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "The Hard Way," 1940s

Christie held out her arms, saying with an irresistible longing in her eyes and voice: "Let me hold her! I love babies dearly, and it seems as if it would do me more good than quarts of tea to cuddle her, if she'll let me." ~Louisa May Alcott, "Through the Mist," Work: A Story of Experience, 1873

...years of quiet bliss
To me, fast-rooted on paternal land,
Mated, yet childless. He had journeyed far
Beyond the borders of my life...
~Bayard Taylor, "First Evening"

APE  LEADER:  an old maid, their punishment after death, for neglecting to encrease and multiply, will be it is said, leading apes in hell. ~Francis Grose, ed., A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785

All these years
I thought 'barren'
meant of the womb —
but now my body
has threatened me
with menopause
and I realize it
means of the heart.
~Terri Guillemets, "Truly lost," 2022

Guy Darrell resumed the thread of solitary life... with a calm which was deeper in its gloom than it had been before... Five years nearer to death, and the last hope that had flitted across the narrowing passage to the grave, fallen like a faithless torch from his own hand, and trodden out by his own foot... Ambition halted now, baffled and despairing. Childless, his line would perish with himself — himself, who had so vaunted its restoration in the land!... By toil he had amassed ample wealth; by talent he had achieved a splendid reputation. But the reputation was as perishable as the wealth. Let a half-century pass over his tomb, and nothing would be left to speak of... save... perhaps, at most, quotations of eloquent sentences... shreds and fragments of a great intellect, which another half-century would sink without a bubble into the depths of Time... Some with a tithe of his abilities have the luck to fasten their names to things that endure... They have written volumes out of which a couplet of verse, a period in prose, may cling to the rock of ages, as a shell that survives a deluge... Then... the idea that he might yet reappear in active life, and do something which the world would not willingly let die, had softened the face of that tranquil Nature from which he must soon now pass out of reach and sight. On the tree of Time he was a leaf already sear upon the bough — not an inscription graven into the rind. Ever slow to yield to weak regrets — ever seeking to combat his own enemies within — Darrell said to himself one night, while Fairthorn's flute was breathing an air of romance through the melancholy walls: "Is it too late yet to employ this still busy brain upon works that will live when I am dust, and make Posterity supply the heir that fails to my house?"... Youth flings the reins to genius, and dashes into the ranks of Fame... ~Pisistratus Caxton (Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton), What Will He Do With It?, 1858

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published 2012 Apr 29
revised 2021 Dec 14
last saved 2023 Aug 30