Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Ghost-Bereft (1901)
II. The Turn of the Road
By Jane Barlow (1857–1917)
 
Deceptaque non capiatur.

WHERE this narrow lane slips by,
All the land’s breadth, over-glowed
Under amplest arching sky,
Seems a secret meet to keep
For these hedged banks close and high,        5
Till the turn of the road.
Then a curve of sudden sweep—
Lone and green the country side,
Like a cloak, with scarce a fold,
And the white track’s dwindling thread,        10
Lies in basking beams dispread:
You may look out far and wide
From the turn of the road.
  There’s a gleam of rusted gold,
And a blink of eave-stained wall,        15
Up the lane a rood or so,
Where a thatched roof huddles low;
And a day will seldom fall
But its mistress, bent and old,
Rime-frost hair and little red shawl,        20
Through her black-gapped doorway fares.
Very frail and meagre and small,
And the years’ unlifted load
With a faltering foot she bears
’Twixt the tall banks to and fro;        25
But her steps will ever stay
Ere the turn of the road—
Never reach it; you might guess
That they halt for feebleness,
Till you hear her story told.        30
  For she says: “The children all
Are a weary while away.
Years long since I watched them go—
’Twas when dawn came glimmering cold-
Round the turn of the road.        35
And I’m lonesome left behind;
Yet time passes, fast or slow,
And they’re coming home some day;
They’ll come back to me, they said:
Just this morn that’s overhead        40
It might chance, for aught I know.
  “And that’s always in my mind,
For I dream it in my sleep,
And I think it when I wake,
And when out of doors I creep        45
Towards the turn of the road,
Then a step I hardly make
But I’m saying all the while,
Ere another minute’s gone
I may see them there, all three,        50
Coming home, poor lads, to me,
Round the turn of the road.
  “But a stone’s throw further on,
If I’d creep to where it showed
Like a riband stretched a mile,        55
And the longest look I’d take
Saw naught stirring on its white,
Sure my heart were fit to break.
  “So or ever I come in sight,
Home I set my face again,        60
Lest I’d lose the thought that’s light
Through the darksome day. And then
If I find the house so still
That my heart begins to ache,
And a hundred harms forebode,        65
Ere my foot is o’er the sill,
I can think I needn’t fret,
If they’re maybe near me yet
At the turn of the road.”
 
 
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