The Irish Mother's Lament

“There's no one on the long white road,
The night is closing o'er;
O mother! cease to look abroad,
And let me shut the door.

“Now here, and there, a twinkling light
Comes out along the bay,
The little ships lie still and white,
And no one comes this way.”

She turn'd her straining eyes within,
She sigh'd both long and low.
“Shut up the door, take out the pin,
“Then, if it must be so.

“But, daughter, set the wick alight,
“And put it in the pane;
“If any should come home to-night,
“He'll see it through the rain.

“Nay, leave the pin beneath the latch,
“If some one push the door,
“Across my broken dreams I'll hear
“His footstep on the floor.”

She crouch'd within the ingle nook,
She spread her fingers sere,
Her fail'd eyes had a far-off look,
Despite her four-score year.

And if in youth they had been fair,
'Twas not the charm they had,
Not the old beauty lingering there,
But something weird and sad.

The daughter, in the fire-light pale,
A woman grey and wan,
Sat listening, while half dream, half wail,
Her words went wandering on.

“O river that dost never halt
“Till down beyond the bar,
“Thou meet'st the breakers green and salt
“That bore my lads afar.

“O sea betwixt our slighted isle
“And that wide bounteous West,
“That has such magic in her smile
“To lure away our best,

“Bring back, bring back the guiding keel,
“Bring fast the homebound ship,
“Mine eyes look out, I faint to feel
“The touch of hand, and lip.

“And is that land so much more fair,
“So much more rich that shore
“Than this, where prodigal of care
“I nursed the sons I bore?

“I nursed them at my yielding breast,
“I rear'd them at my knee,
“They left me for the golden West,
“They left me for the sea.

“With hungry heart, and eyes that strove
“In vain their eyes to meet,
“And all my lavish mother's love
“Beat backward to my feet;

“Like that broad stream that runs, and raves,
“And floweth grandly out,
“But the salt billows catch its waves,
“And fling them all about;

“The bitter world wash'd out my claim,
“In childhood it was dear,
“But youth forgets, and manhood came,
“And dash'd it far and near.

“But when I think of the old time,
“Soft fingers, eyes that met,
“In spite of age, in spite of clime,
“I wonder they forget.

“And if they live, their life is strong,
“Forgotten here I die;
“I question with my heart, and long,
“And cannot answer why,

“Till by Christ's grace I walk in white
“Where His redeemèd go,
“And know the reason of God's right,
“Or never care to know.

“But outbound ships come home again,
“They sail 'neath sun and moon,
“Put thou the candle in the pane,
“They may be coming soon.”

“Calm lie the lights below the town,
There's not a ship in sight;
O mother! cease and lay you down,
They will not come to-night.”

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