Context: I found a poem by Ben Shahn titled Father and Child, which says: "Times change: no longer the virgin ample-lapped; the child fallen in it from an adjacent heaven."

And I have never seen "ample-lapped" before. Can anyone explain what it can mean?

  • no idea what it means in context, but "ample-lapped" would mean "in possession of enough lap" literally May 12, 2021 at 18:14
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    from what i can tell, the poem is trying to highlight the passing of time and growing old, and that ample-lapped means to have large/attractive hips, implying that "no longer (is) the virgin ample-lapped" May 12, 2021 at 18:20
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    Yes, that her lap is no longer ample May 12, 2021 at 18:56

2 Answers 2


The poem is by R.S. Stuart, a Welsh poet, about a painting by the artist Ben Shahn which is visible at that link.
It is about a family of three fleeing a bombed town. "No longer ample-lapped" may mean that the woman is no longer seated (has no lap) with her child happily there on her legs. The words may have been chosen partly for their assonance and for their suggestion of heavenly fullness ("the child fallen in it from an adjacent heaven").

The "adjacent heaven" from which the child "fell" may refer to the woman's womb, which is adjacent to her lap (when the latter exists).


Your lap is the horizontal space, formed only when you sit, on the top of your legs between your knees and hips.

In context, to be "lapped" would mean to be seated on somebody's lap. For humans, this is a place that many children, especially children that are treated tenderly, spend a lot of time.

An "ample-lapped child" would be a child that gets to spend a lot of time sitting on a lap.

So, the poem is saying that, among other things, the person who is aged does not get to spend a lot of time sitting on some caring person's lap.

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    I disagree that “ample-lapped” would be a way to describe someone who gets a lot of lap time, any more than “ample-bosomed” would mean a child who is breast fed a lot.
    – ColleenV
    May 12, 2021 at 19:54

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