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Mary Botham Howitt.

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" My parents' graves among the hills,
We left them in their silence lying !
My husband's hopes were high and strong,
And with light heart he went along,
Good omens in each thing descrying.

" My heart was heavy as a stone,

And the poor children's weary cry

Fevered me till my brain grew wild ;

And then I wept ev'n as a child.
And tears relieved my misery.

" We came into this foreign land.

Oh ! weary is the stranger's fate !
He comes where none his feelings share.
Where he may die and no one care !

This, this is to be desolate !

*' He died — ay, in the city street,

God knows why such great grief was sent !
He died — and as the brute might die
The careless people passed us by ;
They were so used to misery,

Their meanest sympathies were spent !

" Ah me ! I by his body sate.

Stupid, as if I could not break
The bonds of that affliction's thrall ;
Nor had I roused my soul at all,

But for my little children's sake.

" Want, total want of daily bread

Came next. My native pride was strong ;
And yet I begged from day to day,
And made my miserable way

Throughout the city's busy throng.



22 ELIAN GRAY.



" I felt that I was one debased,

And what I was I dared not think ;
Ev'n from myself I strove to hide
My very name ; an honest pride

Made me from common beggary shrink.

" Oh misery ! My homeless heart

Grew sick of life. I wandered out
With my two children, far away
Into the solitudes that lay

The populous city round about.

" The mother in my soul was strong,
And I was ravenous as the beast ;
Man's heart was hard, I stole them bread,
And while I pined the children fed,

And yet each day our wants increased.

" I saw them waste, and waste away,
I strove to think it was not so ;
At length one died — of want he died ;
My very brain seemed petrified ;
I wept not in that bitter woe !

" I took the other in my arms,

And day by day, like one amazed

" By an unutterable grief,
I wandered on ; I found relief

In travel, but my brain was crazed.



" How we were fed I cannot tell ;
I pulled the berry from the tree,
And we lived on ; I knew no pain,
Save a dull stupor in my brain.
And I forgot my misery.



ELIAN GRAY. 23



" I joyed to see the little stars ;

I joyed to see the midnight moon ;
I felt at times a wild delight,
I saw my child before my sight

As gamesome as the young racoon.

" 'Twas a strange season ; and how long
It lasted, whether days or years,

I know not ; it too soon went by ;

I woke again to agony,

But ne'er again to human tears.

" The Indian found me in the wood,
He took me to his forest-home ;
They laid my child beneath the tree,
They buried it, unknown to me.
In a wild lonesome place of gloom.

" The Indian women on me gazed

With eyes of tenderness, and then
Slowly came back each 'wildered sense ;
Their low tones of benevolence
Gave me my human soul again.

" And I have lived with them for years ;

And I have been an Indian wife ;
And, save at times Avhen thoughts will flow
Back through those dreadful times of woe
To my youth's sunshine long ago,

I almost like the Indian life.

" But one cloud darkeneth still my soul,
I have forgot my fathers' God !
I cannot pray ; and yet I turn
Toward Him, and my weak soul doth yearn
Once more for holy spiritual food.



24 ELIAN GRAY.



" Oh that I had an inward peace !
Oh that I had a hope to bless !
A faith to strengthen and sustain
My spirit through its mortal pain,
To comfort my long wretchedness !

** But I am feeble as a child,

I pine as one that wanteth bread :

And idly I repeat each word

Of holy import I have heard,
Or that in early creeds I said.

*' But oh ! my comfort cometh not !

And, whether God is veiled in wrath
And will not heed my misery,
Or whether He regardeth me,

I know not ; gloomy is my path !"

With this arose old Elian Gray :
" My daughter, God hath left thee not,
He hath regarded thy complaint,
Hath seen thy spirit bruised and faint,
Thou art not of His love forgot !

" 'Tis by His arm I hither came ;

Surely for this I heard a voice
Which bade me in my place ' be still ;'
I caine by His almighty will.

And greatly doth my soul rejoice !"

He gave her comfort, gave her peace ;

And that lone daughter of despair
For very joy of heart shed tears ;
And the dark agony of years

Passed by, like a wild dream of care.



ELIAN GRAY. 25



Thus was the old man's mission done ;

And she, who 'mong that forest race
Was wife and mother, won his life
From torture, from the scalping knife,

And sped him to his former place.

1830

3



26



SALE OF THE PET LAMB.



THE SALE OF THE PET LAMB.



Oh ! poverty is a weary thing, 'tis full of grief and pain ;

It boweth down the heart of man, and dulls his cunning brain ;

It maketh even the little child with heavy sighs complain.

The children of the rich man have not their bread to win ;
They scarcely know how labor is the penalty of sin ;
Even as the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin.

And year by year, as life wears on, no wants have they to bear ;
In all the luxury of the earth they have abundant share ;
They walk along life's pleasant ways, where all is rich and fair.

The children of the poor man, though they be young each one,
Must rise betime each morning, before the rising sun ;
And scarcely when the sun is set their daily task is done.

Few things have they to call their own, to fill their hearts with

pride,
The sunshine and the summer flowers upon the-highway side,
And their own free companionship on heathy commons wide.

Hunger, and cold, and weariness, these are a frightful three ;
But another curse there is beside, that darkens poverty,
It may not have one thing to love, how small soe'er it be.



SALE OF THE PET LAMB 27

A thousand flocks were on the hills, a thousand flocks and more,
Feeding in sunshine pleasantly ; they were the rich man's store :
There was the while one little lamb beside a cottage door ;

A little lamb that rested with the children 'neath the tree,

That ate, meek creature, from their hands, and nestled to their

knee ;
That had a place within their hearts, one of the family.

But want, even as an armed man, came down upon their shed,
The father labored all day long that his children might be fed.
And, one by one, their household things were sold to buy them
bread.

That father, with a downcast eye, upon his threshold stood.
Gaunt poverty each pleasant thought had in his heart subdued.
"What is the creature's life to us ?" said he : " 'twill buy us food.

" Ay, though the children weep all day, and with down-drooping

head
Each does his small task mournfully, the hungry must be fed ;
And that which has a price to bring must go to buy us bread."

It went. Oh ! parting has a pang the hardest heart to wring.
But the tender soul of a little child with fervent love doth cling,
With love that hath no feignings false, unto each gentle thing.

Therefore most sorrowful it was those children small to see,
Most sorrowful to hear them plead for the lamb so piteously :
" Oh ! mother dear, it loveth us ; and what beside have we ?"

" Let's take him to the broad green hill !" in his impotent despair
Said one strong boy : •' let's take him off, the hills are wide and

fair ;
I know a little hiding place, and we will keep him there."



28 SALE OF THE PET LAMB.

Oh vain ! They took the little lamb, and straightway tied him

down,
With a strong cord they tied him fast ; and o'er the common

brown.
And o'er the hot and flinty roads, they took him to the town.

The little children througii that day, and throughout all the

morrow.
From everything about the house a mournful thought did borrow ;
The very bread they had to eat was food unto their sorrow.

Oh ! poverty is a weary thing, 'tis full of grief and pain ;
It keepeth down the soul of man, as with an iron chain ;
It maketh even the little child with heavy sighs complain.

1S30.



AN OLD MAN'S STORY. 29



AN OLD MAN'S STORY



There was an old and quiet man,

And by the fire sat he ;
" And now," he said, " to you I'll tell
A dismal thing, which once befell

Upon the Southern Sea.

"Tis five and fifty years gone by,
Since from the river Plate,
A young man in a home-bound ship,
I sailed as second mate.

" She was a trim stout-timbered ship.
And built for stormy seas ;
A lovely thing on the wave was she,
With her canvass set so gallantly
Befoi'e a steady breeze.

" For forty days, like a winged thing.
She went before the gale ;
Nor all that time we slackened speed.
Turned helm, or shifted sail.



30 AN OLD MAN'S STORY.

" She was a laden argosy,

With gold from the Spanish Main,
And the treasure-hoards of a Portuguese
Returning home again.

" An old and silent man was he,
His face was yellow and lean ;
In the golden lands of Mexico
A miner he had been.

" His body was wasted, bent and bowed,
And 'mid his gold he lay,
'Mid iron chests bound round with brass,
And he watched them night and day.

" No word he spoke to any on board,
His step was heavy and slow ;
And all men deemed that an evil life
He had led in Mexico.

" But list ye me ! On the lone high seas

As we went smoothly on,
It chanced, in the silent second watch,

As I sate on the deck alone,
That I heard from 'mong those iron chests

A sound like a dying groan.

" I started to my feet, and lo !

The captain stood by me ;

He bore a body in his arms,

And dropped it in the sea.



AN OLD MAN'S STORY. - 31

" I heard it drop into the sea,

With a heavy splashing sound ;
I saw the captain's bloody hands

As quickly he turned round.
He drew in his breath when me he saw,
Like one whom the sudden withering awe

Of a spectre doth astound :

" But I saw his white and palsied lips,

And the stai'e of his wild eye,
As he turned in hurried haste away,

Yet had no power to fly ;
He was chained to the deck by his heavy guilt,

And the blood that was not dry.

" ' 'Twas a cursed thing,' said I, ' to kill
That old man in his sleep.
The curse of blood will come from him
Ten thousand fathoms deep.

" ' The plagues of the sea will follow us,
For Heaven his groans hath heard.'
The captain's white lips slowly moved,
And yet he spoke no word.

" And slowly he lifted his bloody hands,
As if his eyes to shade ;
But the blood that was wet did freeze his soul,
And he shrieked like one afraid.

" And even then, that very hour,
The wind dropped ; and a spell
Was on the ship, was on the sea ;
And we lay for weeks, how wearily !
Where the old man's body fell.



39



AN iM.n MAN'S Slt^KY.



" 1 loKl no iMic w illiiii llir ship
'ri\!il lioniil ilrnl nl" sin ;
I'lU' 1 saw llii' ami kIIIiuI at work.
And pnnishmi'nl lu^j^in.

" And, \\ lull tl\oy s|>olvo oi' llic inuriKM<>d iniin
And ihc l'll.I)oriido lioard,
Tliry all snrniisi<d lu> hail walked in dreams,
And lalh-n o\ (-rhi>aid.

" l^ul I aIon(\ and the miinItM-(>r,
That tin>adrul ihiiiij did know,
llow \\r lay in his sin, a nnii'dcrcd man.
.\ thonsand fathoms low .

'• And main da\s, imd maiiv moi(>.
Came o\\. and lagijini!: sped ;
Anil iho hi'a\ \ wa\os ot the s!t'e|)iiig s»'»i
\\ ore dark, like moltiMi load.

" ImM not a l>r(M^7.t> e.amo (<asf or \V(\sf.
And luiinin:; was iIk' sk> ,
And stilliiii,' was each l>rt>!ilh wo dicw ;
The air w as hot and dry.

" I Ml mo ! ;i \oi\ smoll oC death
liun;,' ronnd iis ni^hl aiul day I
Nor tlareil I look into th(> sea,
N\ here tlie old man's hoiiv lav.



" The eaptain in his eahin ke|i(,
Antl lH>ll(>d fast the door ;
The seamen, tin'y walked up ,ind ilown,
.\nd w ishi~d the calm was o'er.



AN OLD MAN'S STORY. 3.1

" The captain's son was on board with us,
A fair child, seven years old,
With a merry face that all men loved,
And a spirit kind and bold.

" I loved the child ; and I took his hand
And made him kneel, and pray
That the crime for which the calm was sent
Might clean be purged away.

" For I thought that God would hear his prayer,
And set the vessel free :
'Twas a dreadful curse, to lie becalmed
Upon that charnel sea.

" Yet I told him not wherefore he prayed,
Nor why the calm was sent ;
I could not give that knowledge dark
To a soul so irmocent.

"At length I saw a little cloud
Rise in that sky of flame,
A little cloud, that grew and grew.
And blackened as it came.

" We saw the sea beneath its track
Grow dark as was the sky ;
And waterspouts, with rushing sound,
Like giants passed us by.

" And all around, 'twixt sky and sea,
A hollow wind did blow ;
The sullen waves swung heavily ;
The ship rocked to and fro.



y^



34 AN OLD MAN'S STORY.

*' I knew it was that fierce death-calm
Its horrid hold undoing ;
I saw the plagues of wind and storm
Their missioned work pursuing.

" There was a yell in the gathering winds,
A groan in the heaving sea :
The captain rushed from his place below,
But durst not look on me.

" He seized each rope with a madman's haste,
And set the helm to go,
And every sail he crowded on
As the furious winds did blow.

" Away they went, like autumn leaves
Before the tempest's rout ;
The naked masts came crashing down,
The wild ship plunged about.

" The men to spars and splintered boards
Clung, till their strength was gone;
And I saw them from their feeble hold
Washed over, one by one ;

" And 'mid the creaking timber's din,
And the roaring of the sea,
I heard the dismal, drowning cries
Of their last agony.

" There was a curse in the wind that blew,
A curse in the boiling wave ;
And the captain knew that vengeance came
From the old man's ocean-grave.



AN OLD MAN'S STORY. 35

" I heard him say, as he sate apart,

In a hollow voice and low,
* 'Tis a cry of blood doth follow us;
And still doth plague us so !'

" And then those heavy iron chests
With desperate strength took he,
And ten of the strongest mariners
Did cast them into the sea.

" And out from the bottom of the sea

There came a hollow groan ; —
The captain by the gunwale stood,

And looked like icy stone,
With a gasping sob he drew in his breath,

And spasms of death came on.

" And a furious boiling wave rose up.
With a rushing thundering roar ;
I saw him fall before its force,
But I never saw him more.

" Two days before, when the storm began,
We were forty men and five.
But ere the middle of that night
There were but two alive —

" The child and I : we were but two ;
And he clung to me in fear.
Oh ! it was pitiful to see
That meek child in his misery,
And his little prayers to hear.



36 AN OLD MAN'S STORY.

" At length, as if his prayers were heard
'Twas cahner ; and anon
The clear sun shone ; and, warm and low,
A steady wind from the west did blow,
And drove us gently on.

" And on we drove, and on we drove,
That fair young child and I ;
His heart was as a man's in strength,
And he uttered not a cry.

" There was no bread within the wreck.

And water we had none.
Yet he murmured not, and talked of hope,

When my last hopes were gone :
I saw him waste and waste away,

And his rosy cheek grow wan.

" Still on we drove, I know not where,
For many nights and days,
We were too weak to raise a sail.
Had there been one to raise.

" Still on we went, as the west wind drove,
On, o'er the pathless tide ;
And I lay in sleep, 'twixt life and death.
With the young child at my side.

" And, as we thus were drifting on

Amid the Great South sea.

An English vessel passed us by

That was sailing cheerily.
Unheard by me that vessel hailed,
And asked what we might be.



AN OLD MAN'S STORY. 37



" The young child at the cheer rose up,
And gave an answering word ;
And they drew him from the drifting wreck,
As light as is a bird.

" They took him gently in their arms,

And put again to sea : —
* Not yet ! not yet !' he feebly cried ;
' There was a man with me !'

" Again unto the wreck they turned,
Where, like one dead, I lay ;
And a ship-boy small had strength enough
To carry me away.

" Oh ! joy it was, when sense returned.
That fair warm ship to see.
And to hear the child within his bed
Speak pleasant words to me !

" I thought at first, that we had died ;
That all our pain was o'er,
And in a blessed ship of Heaven
We voyaged to its shore :

*' But they were human forms that knelt
Beside our bed to pray,
And men with hearts most merciful
That watched us night and day.

" 'Twas a dismal tale I had to tell
Of wreck and wild distress ;
But, even then, I told to none
The captain's wickedness.



38 AN OLD MAN'S STORY.

" For I loved the boy, and could not cloud
His soul with sense of shame ;
'T were an evil thing, thought I, to blast

A sinless orphan's name !
So he grew to be a man of wealth
And honorable fame.

" And in after years, when he had ships,

I sailed with him the sea.
And in all the sorrows of my life

He was a friend to me ;
And God hath blessed him everywhere

With a great prosperity."



THE HUNTER'S LINN. 39



THE HUNTER'S LINN.



The hound is sitting by the stone,

The large black hound, and moaning ever ;
And looking down, with wistful eyes.

Into the deep and lonesome river.

Afar he looks, and, 'mong the hills,
The castle's old grey tower he spyeth ;

Yet human form he seeth none,

O'er all the moor that round him lieth.

The hound he moaneth bitterly ;

The uneasy hound he moaneth ever ;
And now he runneth up and down,

And now he yelleth to the river.

Unto the shepherd on the hills

Comes up the lonely creature's sorrow,

And troubleth sore the old man's heart.
Among his flocks, the long day thorough.

The afternoon grows dark betime,

The night winds, ere the night, are blowing,
And cold grey mists from out the fen

Along the forest-moor are going.



40 THE HUNTER'S LINN.

The castle looketh dark without,

Within, the rooms are cold and dreary ;

The chill light from the window fades ;
The fire it burneth all unchcery.

With meek hands crossed, beside the hearth
The pale and anxious mother sitteth :

And now she listens to the bat

That screaming round the window flitteth :

And now she listens to the winds

That come with moaning and with sighing :

And now unto the doleful owls
Calling afar and then replying.

And now she paces through the room,
And " He will come anon !" she sayeth j

And then she stirs the sleeping fire.
Sore marvelling why he thus delaycth.

Unto the window now she goes,

And looks into the evening chilly ;

She sees the misty moors afar,

And sighs, " Why cometh not my Willie ?"

The gusty winds wail round about ;

The damps of evening make her shiver,
And, in the pauses of the wind,

She hears the rushing of the river.

" Why cometh not my Willie home ?

Why comes he not ?" the mother crieth ;
" The winds wail dismally to-night.

And on the moors the grey fog lieth."



THE HUNTER'S LINN. 41

She listens to a sound, that comes

She knows not whence, of sorrow telling ;

She listens to the large black hound,
That on the river side is yelling.

The hound he sitteth by the stone ;

The uneasy hound he moaneth ever ;
The homeward shepherd sees him there,

Beside the deep and lonesome river.

The mother listens eagerly.

The voice is as a doleful omen ;
She shuts the casement, speaking low —

" It groweth late ; he must be coming !

" Rise up, my women, every one.

And make the house so light and cheery ;
My Willie cometh from the moors.
Home cometh he all wet and weary."

The hound he moaneth bitterly.

The moaning hound he ceaseth never,
He looks into the shepherd's face,

Then down into the darksome river.

The shepherd's heart is troubled sore,

Is troubled sore with woe and wonder,
And down into the linn he looks.

That lies the broken granite under.

He looks into the dark deep pool.

Within his soul new terror waking ;
The hound sends forth a hollow moan,

As if his very heart were breaking.



42 THE HUNTER'S LINN.

Tlic shepherd dimly sees a cloak,
He dimly sees a floating feather,

And farther down a broken bough,
And broken twigs of crimson heather.

The hound clings to the granite crags,
As o'er the deep dark pool he bendcth,

And piteous cries that will not cease
Into the darksome linn he sendeth.

Upon his staff the shepherd leans.
And for a little space doth ponder,

He looks all round, 'tis drear and dim,
Save in the lit-up castle yonder.

" Ah ! " saith the old man, mournfully.
And tears adown his cheeks are falling,

" My lady watcheth for her son.

The hound is for his master calling !"



THE FAIRIES OF THE CALDON LOW. 43



THE FAIRIES OF THE CALDON LOW.



A MIDSUMMER LEGEND.



" And where have you been, my Mary,
And where have you been from me ? "

" I've been to the top of the Caldon Low,
The midsummer-nish-t to see ! "



D



" And what did you see, my Mary,
All up on the Caldon Low ? "

" I saw the glad sunshine come down,
And I saw the merry winds blow."

"And what did you hear, my Mary,
All up on the Caldon Hill 1 "

" I heard the drops of the water made,
And the ears of the green corn fill."

" Oh ! tell me all, my Mary,

All, all that ever you know ;
For you must have seen the fairies,
Last night, on the Caldon Low."



44 THE FAIRIES OF



*' Then take me on your knee, mother ;
And listen, mother of mine.
A hundred fairies danced last night,
And the harpers they were nine.

" And their harp-strings rung so merrily
To their dancing feet so small ;
But oh I the words of their talking
Were merrier far than all."

" And what were the words, my Mary,
That then you heard them say ? "

" I'll tell you all, my mother ;
But let me have my way.

" Some of them played with the water,

And rolled it down the hill ;
' And this,' they said, ' shall speedily turn
The poor old miller's mill :

" ' For there has been no water
Ever since the first of May ;
And a busy man will the miller be
At dawning of the day.

•' ' Oh ! the miller, how he will laugh
When he sees the mill-dam rise !
The jolly old miller, how he will laugh
Till the tears fill both his eyes ! '

" And some they seized the little winds

f

That sounded over the hill ;
And each put a horn unto his mouth.
And blew both loud and shrill :



THE CALDON LOW. 45



" ' And there,' they said, ' the merry winds go
Away from every horn ;
And they shall clear the mildew dank
From the blind, old widow's com.

" ' Oh ! the poor, blind widow,

Though she has been blind so long,
She'll be blithe enough when the mildew's gone,
And the corn stands tall and strong.'

" And some they brought the brown lint-seed,
And flung it down from the Low ;

' And this,' they said, ' by the sunrise,
In the weaver's ci'oft shall grow.

" ' Oh ! the poor, lame weaver,
How will he laugh outright
When he sees his dwindling flax-field
All full of flowers by night !'

" And then outspoke a brownie.

With a long beard on his chin ;
' I have spun up all the tow,' said he,
' And I want some more to spin.

" ' I've spun a piece of hempen cloth.
And I want to spin another ;
A little sheet for Mary's bed.
And an apron for her mother-.'

" With that I coulchnot help but laugh.
And I laughed out loud and free ;
And then on the top of the Caldon Low
There was no one left but me.



46 THE FAIRIES OF THE CALDON LOW.

" And all on the top of the Caldon Low
The mists were cold and grey,
And nothing I saw but the mossy stones
That round about me lay.

" But, coming down from the hill-top,
I heard afar below,
How busy the jolly miller was,
And how the wheel did go.

" And I peeped into the widow's field,
And, sure enough, were seen
The yellow ears of the mildewed corn.
All standing stout and green.

" And down by the weaver's croft I stole.
To see if the flax were sprung ;
But I met the weaver at his gate.
With the good news on his tongue.

" Now this is all I heard, mother.
And all that I did see ;
So, pr'ythee, make my bed, mother,
• For I'm tired as I can be."



DOLORES MARIS. 47



DOLORES MARIS.



" The earth is large," said one of twain,
" The earth is large and wide ;
And it is filled with misery

And death, on every side."
Said the other : " Deep as it is wide

Is the sea, within all climes ;
And it is fuller of misery

And death a thousand times.
The land has peaceful flocks and herds,

And sweet birds sintrino- round :
But a myriad monstrous, hideous things

Within the sea are found.
Things all misshapen, slimy, cold,

Writhing, and strong, and thin ;
And water-spouts, and whirlpools wild,

That draw the fair ships in.
I have heard of divers to the depths

Of the ocean forced to go,
To bring up pearls and twisted shells

From the viewless caves below ;
I have heard of things in those dismal gulfs


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Online LibraryMary Botham HowittBallads and other poems .. → online text (page 2 of 11)