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V. In the Shadow

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

Narrative and Legendary Poems

Mabel Martin
V. In the Shadow

POOR Mabel, homeward turning, passed

The nameless terrors of the wood,

And saw, as if a ghost pursued,

Her shadow gliding in the moon;

The soft breath of the west-wind gave

A chill as from her mother’s grave.

How dreary seemed the silent house!

Wide in the moonbeams’ ghastly glare

Its windows had a dead man’s stare!

And, like a gaunt and spectral hand,

The tremulous shadow of a birch

Reached out and touched the door’s low porch,

As if to lift its latch; hard by,

A sudden warning call she heard,

The night-cry of a boding bird.

She leaned against the door; her face,

So fair, so young, so full of pain,

White in the moonlight’s silver rain.

The river, on its pebbled rim,

Made music such as childhood knew;

The door-yard tree was whispered through

By voices such as childhood’s ear

Had heard in moonlights long ago;

And through the willow-boughs below

She saw the rippled waters shine;

Beyond, in waves of shade and light,

The hills rolled off into the night.

She saw and heard, but over all

A sense of some transforming spell,

The shadow of her sick heart fell.

And still across the wooded space

The harvest lights of Harden shone,

And song and jest and laugh went on.

And he, so gentle, true, and strong,

Of men the bravest and the best,

Had he, too, scorned her with the rest?

She strove to drown her sense of wrong,

And, in her old and simple way,

To teach her bitter heart to pray.

Poor child! the prayer, begun in faith,

Grew to a low, despairing cry

Of utter misery: “Let me die!

“Oh! take me from the scornful eyes,

And hide me where the cruel speech

And mocking finger may not reach!

“I dare not breathe my mother’s name:

A daughter’s right I dare not crave

To weep above her unblest grave!

“Let me not live until my heart,

With few to pity, and with none

To love me, hardens into stone.

“O God! have mercy on Thy child,

Whose faith in Thee grows weak and small,

And take me ere I lose it all!”

A shadow on the moonlight fell,

And murmuring wind and wave became

A voice whose burden was her name.