Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works





      A TRAVELLER on the skirt of Sarum's Plain
      Pursued his vagrant way, with feet half bare;
      Stooping his gait, but not as if to gain
      Help from the staff he bore; for mien and air
      Were hardy, though his cheek seemed worn with care
      Both of the time to come, and time long fled:
      Down fell in straggling locks his thin grey hair;
      A coat he wore of military red
      But faded, and stuck o'er with many a patch and shred.


      While thus he journeyed, step by step led on,
      He saw and passed a stately inn, full sure
      That welcome in such house for him was none.
      No board inscribed the needy to allure
      Hung there, no bush proclaimed to old and poor
      And desolate, "Here you will find a friend!"
      The pendent grapes glittered above the door;--
      On he must pace, perchance 'till night descend,
      Where'er the dreary roads their bare white lines extend.


      The gathering clouds grow red with stormy fire,
      In streaks diverging wide and mounting high;
      That inn he long had passed; the distant spire,
      Which oft as he looked back had fixed his eye,
      Was lost, though still he looked, in the blank sky.
      Perplexed and comfortless he gazed around,
      And scarce could any trace of man descry,
      Save cornfields stretched and stretching without bound;
      But where the sower dwelt was nowhere to be found.


      No tree was there, no meadow's pleasant green,
      No brook to wet his lip or soothe his ear;
      Long files of corn-stacks here and there were seen,
      But not one dwelling-place his heart to cheer.
      Some labourer, thought he, may perchance be near;
      And so he sent a feeble shout--in vain;
      No voice made answer, he could only hear
      Winds rustling over plots of unripe grain,
      Or whistling thro' thin grass along the unfurrowed plain.


      Long had he fancied each successive slope
      Concealed some cottage, whither he might turn
      And rest; but now along heaven's darkening cope
      The crows rushed by in eddies, homeward borne.
      Thus warned he sought some shepherd's spreading thorn
      Or hovel from the storm to shield his head,
      But sought in vain; for now, all wild, forlorn,
      And vacant, a huge waste around him spread;
      The wet cold ground, he feared, must be his only bed.


      And be it so--for to the chill night shower
      And the sharp wind his head he oft hath bared;
      A Sailor he, who many a wretched hour
      Hath told; for, landing after labour hard,
      Full long endured in hope of just reward,
      He to an armed fleet was forced away
      By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared
      Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey,
      'Gainst all that in 'his' heart, or theirs perhaps, said nay.


      For years the work of carnage did not cease,
      And death's dire aspect daily he surveyed,
      Death's minister; then came his glad release,
      And hope returned, and pleasure fondly made
      Her dwelling in his dreams. By Fancy's aid
      The happy husband flies, his arms to throw
      Round his wife's neck; the prize of victory laid
      In her full lap, he sees such sweet tears flow
      As if thenceforth nor pain nor trouble she could know.


      Vain hope! for frand took all that he had earned.
      The lion roars and gluts his tawny brood
      Even in the desert's heart; but he, returned,
      Bears not to those he loves their needful food.
      His home approaching, but in such a mood
      That from his sight his children might have run.
      He met a traveller, robbed him, shed his blood;
      And when the miserable work was done
      He fled, a vagrant since, the murderer's fate to shun.


      From that day forth no place to him could be
      So lonely, but that thence might come a pang
      Brought from without to inward misery.
      Now, as he plodded on, with sullen clang
      A sound of chains along the desert rang;
      He looked, and saw upon a gibbet high
      A human body that in irons swang,
      Uplifted by the tempest whirling by;
      And, hovering, round it often did a raven fly.


      It was a spectacle which none might view,
      In spot so savage, but with shuddering pain;
      Nor only did for him at once renew
      All he had feared from man, but roused a train
      Of the mind's phantoms, horrible as vain.
      The stones, as if to cover him from day,
      Rolled at his back along the living plain;
      He fell, and without sense or motion lay;
      But, when the trance was gone, feebly pursued his way.


      As one whose brain habitual phrensy fires
      Owes to the fit in which his soul hath tossed
      Profounder quiet, when the fit retires,
      Even so the dire phantasma which had crossed
      His sense, in sudden vacancy quite lost,
      Left his mind still as a deep evening stream.
      Nor, if accosted now, in thought engrossed,
      Moody, or inly troubled, would he seem
      To traveller who might talk of any casual theme.


      Hurtle the clouds in deeper darkness piled,
      Gone is the raven timely rest to seek;
      He seemed the only creature in the wild
      On whom the elements their rage might wreak;
      Save that the bustard, of those regions bleak
      Shy tenant, seeing by the uncertain light
      A man there wandering, gave a mournful shriek,
      And half upon the ground, with strange affright,
      Forced hard against the wind a thick unwieldy flight.


      All, all was cheerless to the horizon's bound;
      The weary eye--which, wheresoe'er it strays,
      Marks nothing but the red sun's setting round,
      Or on the earth strange lines, in former days
      Left by gigantic arms--at length surveys
      What seems an antique castle spreading wide;
      Hoary and naked are its walls, and raise
      Their brow sublime: in shelter there to bide
      He turned, while rain poured down smoking on every side.


      Pile of Stone-henge! so proud to hint yet keep
      Thy secrets, thou that lov'st to stand and hear
      The Plain resounding to the whirlwind's sweep,
      Inmate of lonesome Nature's endless year;
      Even if thou saw'st the giant wicker rear
      For sacrifice its throngs of living men,
      Before thy face did ever wretch appear,
      Who in his heart had groaned with deadlier pain
      Than he who, tempest-driven, thy shelter now would gain.


      Within that fabric of mysterious form,
      Winds met in conflict, each by turns supreme;
      And, from the perilous ground dislodged, through storm
      And rain he wildered on, no moon to stream
      From gulf of parting clouds one friendly beam,
      Nor any friendly sound his footsteps led;
      Once did the lightning's faint disastrous gleam
      Disclose a naked guide-post's double head,
      Sight which tho' lost at once a gleam of pleasure shed.


      No swinging sign-board creaked from cottage elm
      To stay his steps with faintness overcome;
      'Twas dark and void as ocean's watery realm
      Roaring with storms beneath night's starless gloom;
      No gipsy cowered o'er fire of furze or broom;
      No labourer watched his red kiln glaring bright,
      Nor taper glimmered dim from sick man's room;
      Along the waste no line of mournful light
      From lamp of lonely toll-gate streamed athwart the night.


      At length, though hid in clouds, the moon arose;
      The downs were visible--and now revealed
      A structure stands, which two bare slopes enclose.
      It was a spot, where, ancient vows fulfilled,
      Kind pious hands did to the Virgin build
      A lonely Spital, the belated swain
      From the night terrors of that waste to shield:
      But there no human being could remain,
      And now the walls are named the "Dead House" of the plain.


      Though he had little cause to love the abode
      Of man, or covet sight of mortal face,
      Yet when faint beams of light that ruin showed,
      How glad he was at length to find some trace
      Of human shelter in that dreary place.
      Till to his flock the early shepherd goes,
      Here shall much-needed sleep his frame embrace.
      In a dry nook where fern the floor bestrows
      He lays his stiffened limbs,--his eyes begin to close;


      When hearing a deep sigh, that seemed to come
      From one who mourned in sleep, he raised his head,
      And saw a woman in the naked room
      Outstretched, and turning on a restless bed:
      The moon a wan dead light around her shed.
      He waked her--spake in tone that would not fail,
      He hoped, to calm her mind; but ill he sped,
      For of that ruin she had heard a tale
      Which now with freezing thoughts did all her powers assail;


      Had heard of one who, forced from storms to shroud,
      Felt the loose walls of this decayed Retreat
      Rock to incessant neighings shrill and loud,
      While his horse pawed the floor with furious heat;
      Till on a stone, that sparkled to his feet,
      Struck, and still struck again, the troubled horse:
      The man half raised the stone with pain and sweat,
      Half raised, for well his arm might lose its force
      Disclosing the grim head of a late murdered corse.


      Such tale of this lone mansion she had learned
      And, when that shape, with eyes in sleep half drowned,
      By the moon's sullen lamp she first discerned,
      Cold stony horror all her senses bound.
      Her he addressed in words of cheering sound;
      Recovering heart, like answer did she make;
      And well it was that, of the corse there found,
      In converse that ensued she nothing spake;
      She knew not what dire pangs in him such tale could wake.


      But soon his voice and words of kind intent
      Banished that dismal thought; and now the wind
      In fainter howlings told its 'rage' was spent:
      Meanwhile discourse ensued of various kind,
      Which by degrees a confidence of mind
      And mutual interest failed not to create.
      And, to a natural sympathy resigned,
      In that forsaken building where they sate
      The Woman thus retraced her own untoward fate.


      "By Derwent's side my father dwelt--a man
      Of virtuous life, by pious parents bred;
      And I believe that, soon as I began
      To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,
      And in his hearing there my prayers I said:
      And afterwards, by my good father taught,
      I read, and loved the books in which I read;
      For books in every neighbouring house I sought,
      And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.


      "A little croft we owned--a plot of corn,
      A garden stored with peas, and mint, and thyme,
      And flowers for posies, oft on Sunday morn
      Plucked while the church bells rang their earliest chime.
      Can I forget our freaks at shearing time!
      My hen's rich nest through long grass scarce espied;
      The cowslip-gathering in June's dewy prime;
      The swans that with white chests upreared in pride
      Rushing and racing came to meet me at the water-side.


      "The staff I well remember which upbore
      The bending body of my active sire;
      His seat beneath the honied sycamore
      Where the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire;
      When market-morning came, the neat attire
      With which, though bent on haste, myself I decked;
      Our watchful house-dog, that would tease and tire
      The stranger till its barking-fit I checked;
      The red-breast, known for years, which at my casement pecked.


      "The suns of twenty summers danced along,--
      Too little marked how fast they rolled away:
      But, through severe mischance and cruel wrong,
      My father's substance fell into decay:
      We toiled and struggled, hoping for a day
      When Fortune might put on a kinder look;
      But vain were wishes, efforts vain as they;
      He from his old hereditary nook
      Must part; the summons came;--our final leave we took.


      "It was indeed a miserable hour
      When, from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed,
      Peering above the trees, the steeple tower
      That on his marriage day sweet music made!
      Tilt then, he hoped his bones might there be laid
      Close by my mother in their native bowers:
      Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed;--
      I could not pray:--through tears that fell in showers
      Glimmered our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!


      "There was a Youth whom I had loved so long,
      That when I loved him not I cannot say:
      'Mid the green mountains many a thoughtless song
      We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May;
      When we began to tire of childish play,
      We seemed still more and more to prize each other;
      We talked of marriage and our marriage day;
      And I in truth did love him like a brother,
      For never could I hope to meet with such another.


      "Two years were passed since to a distant town
      He had repaired to ply a gainful trade:
      What tears of bitter grief, till then unknown!
      What tender vows, our last sad kiss delayed!
      To him we turned:--we had no other aid:
      Like one revived, upon his neck I wept;
      And her whom he had loved in joy, he said,
      He well could love in grief; his faith he kept;
      And in a quiet home once more my father slept.


      "We lived in peace and comfort; and were blest
      With daily bread, by constant toil supplied.
      Three lovely babes had lain upon my breast;
      And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,
      And knew not why. My happy father died,
      When threatened war reduced the children's meal:
      Thrice happy! that for him the grave could hide
      The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,
      And tears that flowed for ills which patience might not heal.


      "'Twas a hard change; an evil time was come;
      We had no hope, and no relief could gain:
      But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum
      Beat round to clear the streets of want and pain.
      My husband's arms now only served to strain
      Me and his children hungering in his view;
      In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:
      To join those miserable men he flew,
      And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.


      "There were we long neglected, and we bore
      Much sorrow ere the fleet its anchor weighed;
      Green fields before us, and our native shore,
      We breathed a pestilential air, that made
      Ravage for which no knell was heard. We prayed
      For our departure; wished and wished--nor knew,
      'Mid that long sickness and those hopes delayed,
      That happier days we never more must view.
      The parting signal streamed--at last the land withdrew.


      "But the calm summer season now was past.
      On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
      Ran mountains high before the howling blast,
      And many perished in the whirlwind's sweep.
      We gazed with terror on their gloomy sleep,
      Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
      Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
      That we the mercy of the waves should rue:
      We reached the western world, a poor devoted crew.


      "The pains and plagues that on our heads came down,
      Disease and famine, agony and fear,
      In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
      It would unman the firmest heart to hear.
      All perished--all in one remorseless year,
      Husband and children! one by one, by sword
      And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
      Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
      A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored."


      Here paused she of all present thought forlorn,
      Nor voice nor sound, that moment's pain expressed,
      Yet Nature, with excess of grief o'erborne,
      From her full eyes their watery load released.
      He too was mute; and, ere her weeping ceased,
      He rose, and to the ruin's portal went,
      And saw the dawn opening the silvery east
      With rays of promise, north and southward sent;
      And soon with crimson fire kindled the firmament.


      "O come," he cried, "come, after weary night
      Of such rough storm, this happy change to view."
      So forth she came, and eastward looked; the sight
      Over her brow like dawn of gladness threw;
      Upon her cheek, to which its youthful hue
      Seemed to return, dried the last lingering tear,
      And from her grateful heart a fresh one drew:
      The whilst her comrade to her pensive cheer
      Tempered fit words of hope; and the lark warbled near.


      They looked and saw a lengthening road, and wain
      That rang down a bare slope not far remote:
      The barrows glistered bright with drops of rain,
      Whistled the waggoner with merry note,
      The cock far off sounded his clarion throat;
      But town, or farm, or hamlet, none they viewed,
      Only were told there stood a lonely cot
      A long mile thence. While thither they pursued
      Their way, the Woman thus her mournful tale renewed.


      "Peaceful as this immeasurable plain
      Is now, by beams of dawning light imprest,
      In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main;
      The very ocean hath its hour of rest.
      I too forgot the heavings of my breast.
      How quiet 'round me ship and ocean were!
      As quiet all within me. I was blest,
      And looked, and fed upon the silent air
      Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.


      "Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps,
      And groans that rage of racking famine spoke;
      The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps,
      The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke,
      The shriek that from the distant battle broke,
      The mine's dire earthquake, and the pallid host
      Driven by the bomb's incessant thunderstroke
      To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish tossed,
      Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!


      "Some mighty gulf of separation past,
      I seemed transported to another world;
      A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
      The impatient mariner the sail unfurled,
      And, whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
      The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home
      And from all hope I was for ever hurled.
      For me--farthest from earthly port to roam
      Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.


      "And oft I thought (my fancy was so strong)
      That I, at last, a resting-place had found;
      'Here will I dwell,' said I, 'my whole life long,
      Roaming the illimitable waters round;
      Here will I live, of all but heaven disowned,
      And end my days upon the peaceful flood.'--
      To break my dream the vessel reached its bound;
      And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
      And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.


      "No help I sought; in sorrow turned adrift,
      Was hopeless, as if cast on some bare rock;
      Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
      Nor raised my hand at any door to knock.
      I lay where, with his drowsy mates, the cock
      From the cross-timber of an out-house hung:
      Dismally tolled, that night, the city clock!
      At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
      Nor to the beggar's language could I fit my tongue.


      "So passed a second day; and, when the third
      Was come, I tried in vain the crowd's resort.
      --In deep despair, by frightful wishes stirred,
      Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort;
      There, pains which nature could no more support,
      With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall;
      And, after many interruptions short
      Of hideous sense, I sank, nor step could crawl:
      Unsought for was the help that did my life recall.


      "Borne to a hospital, I lay with brain
      Drowsy and weak, and shattered memory;
      I heard my neighbours in their beds complain
      Of many things which never troubled me--
      Of feet still bustling round with busy glee,
      Of looks where common kindness had no part,
      Of service done with cold formality,
      Fretting the fever round the languid heart,
      And groans which, as they said, might make a dead man start.


      "These things just served to stir the slumbering sense,
      Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
      With strength did memory return; and, thence
      Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
      At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
      The lanes I sought, and, as the sun retired,
      Came where beneath the trees a faggot blazed,
      The travellers saw me weep, my fate inquired,
      And gave me food--and rest, more welcome, more desired.


      "Rough potters seemed they, trading soberly
      With panniered asses driven from door to door;
      But life of happier sort set forth to me,
      And other joys my fancy to allure--
      The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor
      In barn uplighted; and companions boon,
      Well met from far with revelry secure
      Among the forest glades, while jocund June
      Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.


      "But ill they suited me--those journeys dark
      O'er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch!
      To charm the surly house-dog's faithful bark,
      Or hang on tip-toe at the lifted latch.
      The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,
      The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,
      And ear still busy on its nightly watch,
      Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill:
      Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.


      "What could I do, unaided and unblest?
      My father! gone was every friend of thine:
      And kindred of dead husband are at best
      Small help; and, after marriage such as mine,
      With little kindness would to me incline.
      Nor was I then for toil or service fit;
      My deep-drawn sighs no effort could confine;
      In open air forgetful would I sit
      Whole hours, with idle arms in moping sorrow knit.


      "The roads I paced, I loitered through the fields;
      Contentedly, yet sometimes self-accused.
      Trusted my life to what chance bounty yields,
      Now coldly given, now utterly refused.
      The ground I for my bed have often used:
      But what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth,
      Is that I have my inner self abused,
      Foregone the home delight of constant truth,
      And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.


      "Through tears the rising sun I oft have viewed,
      Through tears have seen him towards that world descend
      Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:
      Three years a wanderer now my course I bend--
      Oh! tell me whither--for no earthly friend
      Have I."--She ceased, and weeping turned away;
      As if because her tale was at an end,
      She wept; because she had no more to say
      Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.


      True sympathy the Sailor's looks expressed,
      His looks--for pondering he was mute the while.
      Of social Order's care for wretchedness,
      Of Time's sure help to calm and reconcile,
      Joy's second spring and Hope's long-treasured smile,
      'Twas not for 'him' to speak--a man so tried,
      Yet, to relieve her heart, in friendly style
      Proverbial words of comfort he applied,
      And not in vain, while they went pacing side by side.


      Ere long, from heaps of turf, before their sight,
      Together smoking in the sun's slant beam,
      Rise various wreaths that into one unite
      Which high and higher mounts with silver gleam:
      Fair spectacle,---but instantly a scream
      Thence bursting shrill did all remark prevent;
      They paused, and heard a hoarser voice blaspheme,
      And female cries. Their course they thither bent,
      And met a man who foamed with anger vehement,


      A woman stood with quivering lips and pale,
      And, pointing to a little child that lay
      Stretched on the ground, began a piteous tale;
      How in a simple freak of thoughtless play
      He had provoked his father, who straightway,
      As if each blow were deadlier than the last,
      Struck the poor innocent. Pallid with dismay
      The Soldier's Widow heard and stood aghast;
      And stern looks on the man her grey-haired Comrade cast.


      His voice with indignation rising high
      Such further deed in manhood's name forbade;
      The peasant, wild in passion, made reply
      With bitter insult and revilings sad;
      Asked him in scorn what business there he had;
      What kind of plunder he was hunting now;
      The gallows would one day of him be glad;--
      Though inward anguish damped the Sailor's brow,
      Yet calm he seemed as thoughts so poignant would allow.


      Softly he stroked the child, who lay outstretched
      With face to earth; and, as the boy turned round
      His battered head, a groan the Sailor fetched
      As if he saw--there and upon that ground--
      Strange repetition of the deadly wound
      He had himself inflicted. Through his brain
      At once the griding iron passage found;
      Deluge of tender thoughts then rushed amain,
      Nor could his sunken eyes the starting tear restrain.


      Within himself he said--What hearts have we!
      The blessing this a father gives his child!
      Yet happy thou, poor boy! compared with me,
      Suffering not doing ill--fate far more mild.
      The stranger's looks and tears of wrath beguiled
      The father, and relenting thoughts awoke;
      He kissed his son--so all was reconciled.
      Then, with a voice which inward trouble broke
      Ere to his lips it came, the Sailor them bespoke.


      "Bad is the world, and hard is the world's law
      Even for the man who wears the warmest fleece;
      Much need have ye that time more closely draw
      The bond of nature, all unkindness cease,
      And that among so few there still be peace:
      Else can ye hope but with such numerous foes
      Your pains shall ever with your years increase?"--
      While from his heart the appropriate lesson flows,
      A correspondent calm stole gently o'er his woes.


      Forthwith the pair passed on; and down they look
      Into a narrow valley's pleasant scene
      Where wreaths of vapour tracked a winding brook,
      That babbled on through groves and meadows green;
      A low-roofed house peeped out the trees between;
      The dripping groves resound with cheerful lays,
      And melancholy lowings intervene
      Of scattered herds, that in the meadow graze,
      Some amid lingering shade, some touched by the sun's rays.


      They saw and heard, and, winding with the road,
      Down a thick wood, they dropt into the vale;
      Comfort, by prouder mansions unbestowed,
      Their wearied frames, she hoped, would soon regale.
      Erelong they reached that cottage in the dale:
      It was a rustic inn;--the board was spread,
      The milk-maid followed with her brimming pail,
      And lustily the master carved the bread,
      Kindly the housewife pressed, and they in comfort fed.


      Their breakfast done, the pair, though loth, must part;
      Wanderers whose course no longer now agrees.
      She rose and bade farewell! and, while her heart
      Struggled with tears nor could its sorrow ease,
      She left him there; for, clustering round his knees,
      With his oak-staff the cottage children played;
      And soon she reached a spot o'erhung with trees
      And banks of ragged earth; beneath the shade
      Across the pebbly road a little runnel strayed.


      A cart and horse beside the rivulet stood;
      Chequering the canvas roof the sunbeams shone.
      She saw the carman bend to scoop the flood
      As the wain fronted her,--wherein lay one,
      A pale-faced Woman, in disease far gone.
      The carman wet her lips as well behoved;
      Bed under her lean body there was none,
      Though even to die near one she most had loved
      She could not of herself those wasted limbs have moved.


      The Soldier's Widow learned with honest pain
      And homefelt force of sympathy sincere,
      Why thus that worn-out wretch must there sustain
      The jolting road and morning air severe.
      The wain pursued its way; and following near
      In pure compassion she her steps retraced
      Far as the cottage. "A sad sight is here,"
      She cried aloud; and forth ran out in haste
      The friends whom she had left but a few minutes past.


      While to the door with eager speed they ran,
      From her bare straw the Woman half upraised
      Her bony visage--gaunt and deadly wan;
      No pity asking, on the group she gazed
      With a dim eye, distracted and amazed;
      Then sank upon her straw with feeble moan.
      Fervently cried the housewife--"God be praised,
      I have a house that I can call my own;
      Nor shall she perish there, untended and alone!"


      So in they bear her to the chimney seat,
      And busily, though yet with fear, untie
      Her garments, and, to warm her icy feet
      And chafe her temples, careful hands apply.
      Nature reviving, with a deep-drawn sigh
      She strove, and not in vain, her head to rear;
      Then said--"I thank you all; if I must die,
      The God in heaven my prayers for you will hear;
      Till now I did not think my end had been so near.


      "Barred every comfort labour could procure,
      Suffering what no endurance could assuage,
      I was compelled to seek my father's door,
      Though loth to be a burthen on his age.
      But sickness stopped me in an early stage
      Of my sad journey; and within the wain
      They placed me--there to end life's pilgrimage,
      Unless beneath your roof I may remain;
      For I shall never see my father's door again.


      "My life, Heaven knows, hath long been burthensome;
      But, if I have not meekly suffered, meek
      May my end be! Soon will this voice be dumb:
      Should child of mine e'er wander hither, speak
      Of me, say that the worm is on my cheek.--
      Torn from our hut, that stood beside the sea
      Near Portland lighthouse in a lonesome creek,
      My husband served in sad captivity
      On shipboard, bound till peace or death should set him free.


      "A sailor's wife I knew a widow's cares,
      Yet two sweet little ones partook my bed;
      Hope cheered my dreams, and to my daily prayers
      Our heavenly Father granted each day's bread;
      Till one was found by stroke of violence dead,
      Whose body near our cottage chanced to lie;
      A dire suspicion drove us from our shed;
      In vain to find a friendly face we try,
      Nor could we live together those poor boys and I;


      "For evil tongues made oath how on that day
      My husband lurked about the neighbourhood;
      Now he had fled, and whither none could say,
      And 'he' had done the deed in the dark wood--
      Near his own home!--but he was mild and good;
      Never on earth was gentler creature seen;
      He'd not have robbed the raven of its food.
      My husband's lovingkindness stood between
      Me and all worldly harms and wrongs however keen."


      Alas! the thing she told with labouring breath
      The Sailor knew too well. That wickedness
      His hand had wrought; and when, in the hour of death,
      He saw his Wife's lips move his name to bless
      With her last words, unable to suppress
      His anguish, with his heart he ceased to strive;
      And, weeping loud in this extreme distress,
      He cried--"Do pity me! That thou shouldst live
      I neither ask nor wish--forgive me, but forgive!"


      To tell the change that Voice within her wrought
      Nature by sign or sound made no essay;
      A sudden joy surprised expiring thought,
      And every mortal pang dissolved away.
      Borne gently to a bed, in death she lay;
      Yet still while over her the husband bent,
      A look was in her face which seemed to say,
      "Be blest; by sight of thee from heaven was sent
      Peace to my parting soul, the fulness of content."


      'She' slept in peace,--his pulses throbbed and stopped,
      Breathless he gazed upon her face,--then took
      Her hand in his, and raised it, but both dropped,
      When on his own he cast a rueful look.
      His ears were never silent; sleep forsook
      His burning eyelids stretched and stiff as lead;
      All night from time to time under him shook
      The floor as he lay shuddering on his bed;
      And oft he groaned aloud, "O God, that I were dead!"


      The Soldier's Widow lingered in the cot,
      And, when he rose, he thanked her pious care
      Through which his Wife, to that kind shelter brought,
      Died in his arms; and with those thanks a prayer
      He breathed for her, and for that merciful pair.
      The corse interred, not one hour heremained
      Beneath their roof, but to the open air
      A burthen, now with fortitude sustained,
      He bore within a breast where dreadful quiet reigned.


      Confirmed of purpose, fearlessly prepared
      For act and suffering, to the city straight
      He journeyed, and forthwith his crime declared:
      "And from your doom," he added, "now I wait,
      Nor let it linger long, the murderer's fate."
      Not ineffectual was that piteous claim:
      "O welcome sentence which will end though late,"
      He said, "the pangs that to my conscience came
      Out of that deed. My trust, Saviour! is in thy name!"


      His fate was pitied. Him in iron case
      (Reader, forgive the intolerable thought)
      They hung not:--no one on 'his' form or face
      Could gaze, as on a show by idlers sought;
      No kindred sufferer, to his death-place brought
      By lawless curiosity or chance,
      When into storm the evening sky is wrought,
      Upon his swinging corse an eye can glance,
      And drop, as he once dropped, in miserable trance.



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