A Salem Mother

I
They whisper at my very gate,
These clacking gossips every one,
'We saw them in the wood of late,
Her and the widow's son;
The horses at the forge may wait,
The wool may go unspun.'

I spread the food he loves the best,
I light the lamp when day is done,
Yet still he stays another's guest—
Oh, my one son, my son.
I would it burned in mine own breast
The spell he may not shun.

She hath bewitched him with her eyes.
(No goodly maid hath eyes as bright.)
Pale in the morn I watch him rise,
As one who wanders far by night.
The gossips whisper and surmise—
I hide me from the light.

II
Her hair is yellow as the corn,
Her eyes are bluer than the sky;
Behind the casement yester-morn,
I watched her passing by.
My son not yet had broken bread,
Yet from the table did he rise,
She said no word nor turned her head,
What then the spell that bade him stir,
Nor heeding any word I said,
Put by my hands and follow her.

III
He was so strong and wise and good—
Was there no other she might take,
Nor other mothers' hearts to break?

What though she bade the harvest fail,
What though she willed the cattle die,
So my son's soul was spared thereby.

My cattle fill the pastureland,
The ripe fruit thickens on the tree,
My son, my son is lost to me.

IV
They burned a witch in our town,
On hangman's hill today;
And black the ashes drifted down,
Ashes black and grey,
Not white like those o' martyred folk
Whose souls are clean as they.

They burned a witch in our town,
Upon a windy hill,
For that she made the wells sink down
And wrought a young man ill,
The smoke rose black against the sky,
And hangs before it still.

They burned a witch in our town,
And sure they did but right,
And yet I would the rain could drown
That blackened hill from sight,
And some great wind might drive that cloud
'Twixt God and me this night.

by Theodosia Garrison

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