Home  »  English Poetry II  »  383. The Affliction of Margaret

English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

William Wordsworth

383. The Affliction of Margaret

WHERE art thou, my beloved Son,

Where art thou, worse to me than dead!

O find me, prosperous or undone!

Or if the grave be now thy bed,

Why am I ignorant of the same

That I may rest; and neither blame

Nor sorrow may attend thy name?

Seven years, alas! to have received

No tidings of an only child—

To have despair’d, have hoped, believed,

And been for evermore beguiled,—

Sometimes with thoughts of very bliss!

I catch at them, and then I miss;

Was ever darkness like to this?

He was among the prime in worth,

An object beauteous to behold;

Well born, well bred; I sent him forth

Ingenuous, innocent, and bold:

If things ensued that wanted grace

As hath been said, they were not base;

And never blush was on my face.

Ah! little doth the young-one dream

When full of play and childish cares,

What power is in his wildest scream

Heard by his mother unawares!

He knows it not, he cannot guess;

Years to a mother bring distress,

But do not make her love the less.

Neglect me! no, I suffer’d long

From that ill thought; and being blind

Said ‘Pride shall help me in my wrong:

Kind mother have I been, as kind

As ever breathed:’ and that is true;

I’ve wet my path with tears like dew,

Weeping for him when no one knew.

My Son, if thou be humbled, poor,

Hopeless of honour and of gain,

O! do not dread thy mother’s door;

Think not of me with grief and pain:

I now can see with better eyes;

And worldly grandeur I despise

And fortune with her gifts and lies.

Alas! the fowls of heaven have wings,

And blasts of heaven will aid their flight;

They mount—how short a voyage brings

The wanderers back to their delight!

Chains tie us down by land and sea;

And wishes, vain as mine, may be

All that is left to comfort thee.

Perhaps some dungeon hears thee groan

Maim’d, mangled by inhuman men;

Or thou upon a desert thrown

Inheritest the lion’s den;

Or hast been summon’d to the deep

Thou, thou, and all thy mates, to keep

An incommunicable sleep.

I look for ghosts; but none will force

Their way to me: ’tis falsely said

That there was ever intercourse

Between the living and the dead;

For surely then I should have sight

Of him I wait for day and night

With love and longings infinite.

My apprehensions come in crowds;

I dread the rustling of the grass;

The very shadows of the clouds

Have power to shake me as they pass;

I question things, and do not find

One that will answer to my mind;

And all the world appears unkind.

Beyond participation lie

My troubles, and beyond relief:

If any chance to heave a sigh

They pity me, and not my grief.

Then come to me, my Son, or send

Some tidings that my woes may end!

I have no other earthly friend.