Four years each day with daily bread was blest


" Four years each day with daily bread was blest,
By constant toil and constant prayer supplied.
Three lovely infants lay within my breast,
And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed
And knew not why. My happy father died
Just as the children's meal began to fail,
For War the nations to the field defied:
The loom stood still unwatched, the idle gale
Wooed in deserted shrouds the unregarding sail.


How changed at once: for Labour's cheerful hum,
Silence and fears and Misery's weeping train.
But soon with proud parade the noisy drum
Beat round to sweep the streets of want and pain!
My husband's arms now only served to strain
Me and his children, hungering in his view.
He could not beg. My prayers and tears were vain!
To join those miserable men he flew —
We reached the western world a poor devoted crew.


Oh dreadful price of being — to resign
All that is dear in being! Better far
In Want's most lonely cave till death to pine
Unseen, unheard, unwatched by any star.
Better before proud Fortune's sumptuous car
Obvious our dying bodies to obtrude,
Than dog-like, wading at the heels of War,
Protract a curst existence with the brood
That lap, their very nourishment, their brother's blood!


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 thy brain unsettle even to hear!
All perished, all, in one remorseless year —
Husband and children, one by one, by sword
And scourge of fiery fever. Every tear
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored ...


Peaceful as this immeasurable plain
By these extended beams of dawn impressed,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main.
The very ocean has its hour of rest
Ungranted to the human mourner's breast.
Remote from man and storms of mortal care,
With wings which did the world of waves invest,
The spirit of God diffused through balmy air
Quiet that might have healed, if aught could heal, despair.


Ah, how unlike each smell, each sight and sound,
That late the stupor of my spirit broke!
Of noisome hospitals the groan profound,
The mine's dire earthquake, the bomb's thunder-stroke,
Heart-sickening Famine's grim despairing look;
The midnight flames in thundering deluge spread;
The stormed town's expiring shriek that woke
Far round the grisly phantoms of the dead —
And, pale with ghastly light, the victor's human head!


Some mighty gulf of separation passed,
I seemed transported to another world —
A dream resigned with pain when from the mast
The impatient mariner the sail unfurled
And, whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent seas. The pleasant thoughts of home
With tears his weather-beaten cheek impearled:
For me, farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best — my only wish to shun where man might come.


And oft, robbed of my perfect mind, I thought
At last my feet a resting-place had found.
" Here will I weep in peace " , so Fancy wrought,
" Roaming the illimitable waters round —
Here gaze, of every friend but Death disowned,
All day my ready tomb the ocean-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."
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