Woe and alas!—the times of sorrow come,
And make us doubt if we were ever glad!
So utterly that inner voice is dumb,
Whose music through our happy days we had!
So, at the touch of grief, without our will,
The sweet voice drops from us, and all is still.
Woe and alas! for the sea-captain’s wife—
That Margaret who in the Xebec played—
She spent upon his knee her baby life;
Her slumbering head upon his breast she laid.
How shall he learn alone his years to pass?
How in the empty house?—woe and alas!
She died, and in the aisle, the minster aisle,
They made her grave; and there, with fond intent,
Her husband raised, his sorrow to beguile,
A very fair and stately monument:
Her tomb (the careless vergers show it yet),
The mariner’s wife, his love, his Margaret.
A woman’s figure, with the eyelids closed,
The quiet head declined in slumber sweet;
Upon an anchor one fair hand reposed,
And a long ensign folded at her feet,
And carved upon the bordering of her vest
The motto of her house—“He giveth rest."
There is an ancient window richly fraught
And fretted with all hues most rich, most bright,
And in its upper tracery enwrought
An olive-branch and dove wide-winged and white,
An emblem meet for her, the tender dove,
Her heavenly peace, her duteous earthly love.
Amid heraldic shields and banners set,
In twisted knots and wildly-tangled bands,
Crimson and green, and gold and violet,
Fall softly on the snowy sculptured hands;
And, when the sunshine comes, full sweetly rest
The dove and olive-branch upon her breast.
Niloiya said to Noah, “What aileth thee,
My master, unto whom is my desire,
The father of my sons?” He answered her,
“Mother of many children, I have heard
The Voice again.” “Ah, me!” she saith, “ah, me!
What spake it?” and with that Niloiya sighed.
This when the Master-builder heard, his heart
Was sad in him, the while he sat at home
And rested after toil. The steady rap
O’ the shipwright’s hammer sounding up the vale
Did seem to mock him; but her distaff down
Niloiya laid, and to the doorplace went,
Parted the purple covering seemly hung
Before it, and let in the crimson light
Of the descending sun. Then looked he forth,—
Looked, and beheld the hollow where the ark
Was a-preparing; where the dew distilled
All night from leaves of old lign aloe-trees,
Upon the gliding river; where the palm,
The almug, and the gophir shot their heads
Into the crimson brede that dyed the world:
And lo! he marked—unwieldy, dark, and huge—The
ship, his glory and his grief,—too vast
For that still river’s floating,—building far
From mightier streams, amid the pastoral dells
Of shepherd kings.