The Collected Poems of Dora Sigerson Shorter/The Dead Wife
THE DEAD WIFE
Thrice turned she in her narrow bed,
His tears disturbed her rest;
She kissed the little babe that lay
So still upon her breast.
“Dream well,” she said, “my daughter dear,
Since I must leave you lone;
Three times your father's piteous voice
Did make a grievous moan;
“Three times your father's bitter cry
Did wake me from my sleep,
So must I go and comfort him
And bid him not to weep.”
Her fingers chill she did unlace
From off her breast so white;
“Poor hands,” quoth she, “oft for his sake
You toiled a weary night”
She stepped out from her grave so green
Upon her feet so slim,
“Oft were you wounded on the road
Where you did follow him.”
Lone went she up the long boreen
Wherein her love did dwell.
And there she met a nut-brown maid
She once did love full well.
“Now God between us and all harm!”
The maid she fearful cried;
“I thought you slept within your grave,
Your little babe beside.
“I thought you lay all glad in rest
Who now doth walk alone;
What grief is on your soul, poor ghost,
What wrong would you atone?”
“My many sins I do deplore,”
The pale young ghost replied;
“Yet would I sleep to-night full well
My little babe beside.
“From Life's long road all weary I
Would hold such sleeping blest,
Save for the grief of one who mourns
And will not let me rest—
“Save for the tears of one I loved
O'er all the world beside,
Who held me close unto his breast
And named me once his bride.
“I know, as no birds sing for me.
He dreads the thrushes' song;
Since I am lying in the dark.
He thinks the day too long.
“And so I left my little babe
All lone in her cold bed,
So I might draw him to my side
And dry the tears he shed;
“So I might bid him weep no more,
But Heaven's pity take,
That bade me forth to bring my dear
From grief and lone heartbreak;
“Within the shadow of the tomb
In one embrace to rest.
My shoulder for his weary head.
His babe upon my breast”
Now when the maiden all so pale
This piteous tale did hear,
She loosed her braids of nut-brown hair,
And dropped full oft a tear.
“Now go you back, poor ghost,” said she,
“And may your sleep be sound;
And grieve you naught for any man
Who walks the upper ground.
“And do not wake for any soul
Who on this earth doth live;
For if your dear doth grieve him sore
You could not comfort give.
“For he doth weep the lone night through
And all the weary day.
Since I unto his suit am cold
And to his love say nay!”