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Somebody’s Mother – Mary Dow Brine

It was a winter evening. An old woman was waiting to cross a busy road near a school. She was a lone woman although she was very old. Suddenly children came out of the school as it closed for the day. They passed the lonely old woman but none paid any attention to the old lady. It so happened that one of the boys, very cheerful and lively, saw this lady waiting to cross the road. He ran to her and helped her cross the road. Later he explained to his friends that one day his own mother could be in a similar situation and that someone else would help her. At home that night, the old lady prayed for the boy who had helped her cross the road. Her heart was overflowing with gratitude and pride. She prayed, “God, be kind to him, somebody’s son!”

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Stanza 1

The woman was old and ragged and gray
And bent with the chill of the Winter’s day.
The street was wet with a recent snow

And the woman’s feet were aged and slow.


  • Ragged –  (Clothes) Tattered; torn; ripped; frayed; worn out; worn to shreds; threadbare; patched; scruffy; shabby
  • Gray – Aged
  • Bent with the chill of the Winter’s day – The winter cold was so extreme to bear that the old woman was bent down.

Questions & Answers

  1. How do you describe the old woman?
    The woman was very old and poor. Her clothes were in very bad condition. She had gone grey with age. The chill of the winter was extremely high that the woman had to bend herself down to feel warm. Besides, due to ageing, she walked with slow steps as her feet were slow and unsteady.
  2. How cold was the winter?
    The winter was so much cold that even at noon chill was very high and the snow had not melted away by noon.
  3. The woman was herself aged yet the poet says, “the woman’s feet were aged.” What is the difference?
    By saying that the woman’s feet were aged, the poet calls our attention to her inability to walk.
  4. What would you do if you spot an aged man/woman struggling to cross a busy road when you are yourself busy?
    I would no doubt help the aged person cross the road. If i am too busy and my errand is more important than helping him/her cross the road, I will ask someone to provide help.

Stanza 2

She stood at the crossing and waited long,
Alone, uncared for, amid the throng
Of human beings who passed her by
Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eyes.


  • Crossing – Traffic crossing
  • Uncared for – No one to care for
  • Amid – In the midst of
  • Throng – Crowd
  • Heeded – Noticed
  • Glance – Caring look
  • Anxious eyes – Worried look

Questions & Answers

  1. Why did the old woman wait long?
    The old woman waited for long to cross the road because she was too old and helpless to cross the road by herself. Besides, the people that passed by were mostly unfeeling and uncaring.
  2. How does the poet satirize human beings in this stanza?
    The poet is exposing the cold-hardheartedness of human beings. It was a shame for humanity that everyone was too busy to help an old woman. The woman deserved pity by all means but people’s insensitivity made her to wait on that roadside.

Stanza 3

Down the street, with laughter and shout,
Glad in the freedom of “school let out,”
Came the boys like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep.


  • A flock of sheep – Like sheep following the herder, children came out in a line
  • Hailing the snow – Shouting merrily at the snow
  • Piled – Heaped up

Questions & Answers

  1. How did the boys come out of school?
    The boys came out of the school laughing and shouting. They were all very happy.
  2. Why were the boys glad?
    The boys were glad as they came out because it was the end of a long and cold school-day. They felt free after the school.
  3. What is the boys’ freedom compared to?
    The freedom that the boys enjoyed is compared to the freedom enjoyed by a flock of sheep. Although sheep have to follow the herder, they are not strictly monitored under teachers and rules.
  4. Came the boys like a flock of sheep. Figure out the figure of speech.
    Simile is the figure of speech. Here, the boys are compared to a flock of sheep.
  5. What did the boys do as the walked?
    The boys scattered the deep snow as they walked.

Stanza 4

Past the woman so old and gray
Hastened the children on their way.
Nor offered a helping hand to her –
So meek, so timid, afraid to stir
Lest the carriage wheels or the horses’ feet
Should crowd her down in the slippery street.


  • Past – Going ahead
  • Hastened – Hurried
  • Meek – Too gentle to defend oneself
  • Timid – Shy and scared
  • Stir – Move; walk
  • Lest – So that not
  • Lest the carriage wheels or the horses’ feet should crowd her down – So that the carriage wheels or the horses’ feet do not run over her.
  • Crowd down – Walk over

Questions & Answers

  1. How did the boys pass the old woman by?
    The boys passed the old woman in great hurry. They did not offer her any help to cross the road.
  2. Why didn’t the old woman seek help from the boys?
    The old woman was so shy and timid that she could not seek help from one of the boys.
  3. Why couldn’t the old woman cross the road?
    The old woman could not cross the road because she was afraid of being run over by carriages pulled by horses.

Stanza 5

At last came one of the merry troop,
The gayest laddie of all the group;
He paused beside her and whispered low,
“I’ll help you cross, if you wish to go.”


  • Merry troop – Jolly/happy group
  • The gayest – Happiest
  • Laddie – Boy
  • Paused – Stopped

Questions & Answers

  1. What does ‘merry troop’ mean?
    Merry troop refers to a group of boys who came by very happily.
  2. Who paused and offered to help the old woman?
    The happiest of all the boys in a happy group paused to help the old woman.
  3. What did the boy whisper to the old woman?
    The boy whispered to the old woman that he would help her cross the road if she so wished.

Stanza 6

Her aged hand on his strong young arm
She placed, and so, without hurt or harm,
He guided the trembling feet along,
Proud that his own were firm and strong.
Then back again to his friends he went,
His young heart happy and well content.


  • Trembling – Shivering
  • Proud – Feeling proud of oneself
  • His own – His own mother
  • Content – Satisfied

Questions & Answers

  1. How did the old woman cross the road?
    Her aged hand on his strong young arm She placed, and so, without hurt or harm, He guided the trembling feet along,
  2. What pride did the boy feel while helping the old woman cross the road?
    The boy felt proud that his young hands were so strong that they could help an old lady cross a busy road without causing any harm to both.
  3. What did the boy do after helping the old woman?
    After helping the woman cross the road, the boy went back to his cheerful friends.

Stanza 7

“She’s somebody’s mother, boys, you know,
For all she’s aged and poor and slow,
“And I hope some fellow will lend a hand
To help my mother, you understand,
“If ever she’s poor and old and gray,
When her own dear boy is far away.”


  • Lend a hand – Help in a difficult time

Questions & Answers

  1. How did the boy explain his act of helping the old lady cross the road?
    The boy explained his act of helping the old lady cross road by referring to a similar situation in which his own dear mother could run into in the future. He said that his mother would be helped by some kind heart sometime in the future when she traveled alone, tired and aged.

Stanza 8

And “somebody’s mother” bowed low her head
In her home that night, and the prayer she said
Was “God be kind to the noble boy,
Who is somebody’s son, and pride and joy!”


  • Bowed low her head – Sat to pray
  • Pride – Feeling proud

Questions & Answers

  1. What was the old lady’s prayer that night?
    The old lady prayed for the boy who helped her cross the road. She refers to him as ‘somebody’s son, somebody’s pride and joy. She prayed to God to be kind with him.
  2. Why does the old lady think that the boy who helped her cross the road was somebody’s son pride and joy?
    The boy who helped the old lady cross the road was different from the other boys. He was one of the most cheerful one yet he was so kind that he drifted away from his group and found time to help a strange, aged woman to cross the road. The great quality of seeing his own mother in an old lady, the quality to suffer the jeering of his friends, places him on top of all the other boys. As for the boy being so virtuous, the old lady thought that he would be the pride and joy of his parents.

  • Question of

    “Somebody’s’ mother is:

    • Young
    • Old
    • Extremely old
  • Question of

    She was bent with:

    • Age
    • Tiredness
    • Cold
  • Question of

    The woman was walking:

    • Slowly
    • Fast
  • Question of

    I am creating more questions soon! Will you share this with all your friends?

    • Yes
    • No


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    • The woman thought that the boy was someone’s pride and and joy because he was such a sweat child. He was in such a way brought up by his parents that any mother would be proud to have a son like him. While every other boy was either shy about helping an aged woman (what if it were a charming young girl?) or not concerned, ‘this somebody’s son’ came forward to help a stranger old woman out. Thus, the old lady had all the reasons to believe that he was the pride of his mother!

    • The boy helped the old woman to cross the road because he was a virtuous lad who had a noble soul and a soft heart. He was taken aback by seeing the condition of the poor woman and felt pity for her. His kind nature had forced him to go forward and help her.

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