Home  »  The Poetical Works In Four Volumes  »  Mabel Martin
III. The Witch’s Daughter

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

Mabel Martin
III. The Witch’s Daughter

BUT still the sweetest voice was mute

That river-valley ever heard

From lips of maid or throat of bird;

For Mabel Martin sat apart,

And let the hay-mow’s shadow fall

Upon the loveliest face of all.

She sat apart, as one forbid,

Who knew that none would condescend

To own the Witch-wife’s child a friend.

The seasons scarce had gone their round,

Since curious thousands thronged to see

Her mother at the gallows-tree;

And mocked the prison-palsied limbs

That faltered on the fatal stairs,

And wan lip trembling with its prayers!

Few questioned of the sorrowing child,

Or, when they saw the mother die,

Dreamed of the daughter’s agony.

They went up to their homes that day,

As men and Christians justified:

God willed it, and the wretch had died!

Dear God and Father of us all,

Forgive our faith in cruel lies,—

Forgive the blindness that denies!

Forgive thy creature when he takes,

For the all-perfect love Thou art,

Some grim creation of his heart.

Cast down our idols, overturn

Our bloody altars; let us see

Thyself in Thy humanity!

Young Mabel from her mother’s grave

Crept to her desolate hearth-stone,

And wrestled with her fate alone;

With love, and anger, and despair,

The phantoms of disordered sense,

The awful doubts of Providence!

Oh, dreary broke the winter days,

And dreary fell the winter nights

When, one by one, the neighboring lights

Went out, and human sounds grew still,

And all the phantom-peopled dark

Closed round her hearth-fire’s dying spark.

And summer days were sad and long,

And sad the uncompanioned eves,

And sadder sunset-tinted leaves,

And Indian Summer’s airs of balm;

She scarcely felt the soft caress,

The beauty died of loneliness!

The school-boys jeered her as they passed,

And, when she sought the house of prayer,

Her mother’s curse pursued her there.

And still o’er many a neighboring door

She saw the horseshoe’s curvëd charm,

To guard against her mother’s harm:

That mother, poor and sick and lame,

Who daily, by the old arm-chair,

Folded her withered hands in prayer;—

Who turned, in Salem’s dreary jail,

Her worn old Bible o’er and o’er,

When her dim eyes could read no more!

Sore tried and pained, the poor girl kept

Her faith, and trusted that her way,

So dark, would somewhere meet the day.

And still her weary wheel went round

Day after day, with no relief:

Small leisure have the poor for grief.