Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
II. Parting and Absence
To Her Absent Sailor
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
 
From “The Tent on the Beach”

HER window opens to the bay,
On glistening light or misty gray,
And there at dawn and set of day
    In prayer she kneels:
“Dear Lord!” she saith, “to many a home        5
From wind and wave the wanderers come;
I only see the tossing foam
    Of stranger keels.
 
“Blown out and in by summer gales,
The stately ships, with crowded sails,        10
And sailors leaning o’er their rails,
    Before me glide;
They come, they go, but nevermore,
Spice-laden from the Indian shore,
I see his swift-winged Isidore        15
    The waves divide.
 
“O Thou! with whom the night is day
And one the near and far away,
Look out on yon gray waste, and say
    Where lingers he.        20
Alive, perchance, on some lone beach
Or thirsty isle beyond the reach
Of man, he hears the mocking speech
    Of wind and sea.
 
“O dread and cruel deep, reveal        25
The secret which thy waves conceal,
And, ye wild sea-birds, hither wheel
    And tell your tale.
Let winds that tossed his raven hair
A message from my lost one bear,—        30
Some thought of me, a last fond prayer
    Or dying wail!
 
“Come, with your dreariest truth shut out
The fears that haunt me round about;
O God! I cannot bear this doubt        35
    That stifles breath.
The worst is better than the dread;
Give me but leave to mourn my dead
Asleep in trust and hope, instead
    Of life in death!”        40
 
It might have been the evening breeze
That whispered in the garden trees,
It might have been the sound of seas
    That rose and fell;
But, with her heart, if not her ear,        45
The old loved voice she seemed to hear:
“I wait to meet thee: be of cheer,
    For all is well!”
 
 
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