The Sea Wife
There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate, And a wealthy wife is she; She breeds a breed o' rovin' men And casts them over sea. And some are drowned in deep water, And some in sight o' shore, And word goes back to the weary wife And ever she sends more. For since that wife had gate or gear, Or hearth or garth or bield, She willed her sons to the white harvest, And that is a bitter yield. She wills her sons to the wet ploughing, To ride the horse of tree, And syne her sons come back again Far-spent from out the sea. The good wife's sons come home again With little into their hands, But the lore of men that ha' dealt with men In the new and naked lands; But the faith of men that ha' brothered men By more than easy breath, And the eyes o' men that ha' read wi' men In the open books of death. Rich are they, rich in wonders seen, But poor in the goods o' men; So what they ha' got by the skin o' their teeth They sell for their teeth again. For whether they lose to the naked life Or win to their hearts' desire, They tell it all to the weary wife That nods beside the fire. Her hearth is wide to every wind That makes the white ash spin; And tide and tide and 'tween the tides Her sons go out and in; (Out with great mirth that do desire Hazard of trackless ways, In with content to wait their watch And warm before the blaze); And some return by failing light, And some in waking dream, For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts That ride the rough roof-beam. Home, they come home from all the ports, The living and the dead; The good wife's sons come home again For her blessing on their head!