A Vagrant Heart

Poem By Dora Sigerson Shorter

O to be a woman! to be left to pique and pine,
When the winds are out and calling to this vagrant heart of mine.
Whisht! it whistles at the windows, and how can I be still ?
There! the last leaves of the beech-tree go dancing down the hill.
All the boats at anchor they are plunging to be free—
O to be a sailor, and away across the sea!
When the sky is black with thunder, and the sea is white with foam,
The gray-gulls whirl up shrieking and seek their rocky home,
Low his boat is lying leeward, how she runs upon the gale,
As she rises with the billows, nor shakes her dripping sail.
There is danger on the waters—there is joy where dangers be—
Alas! to be a woman and the nomad's heart in me.

Ochone! to be a woman, only sighing on the shore—
With a soul that finds a passion for each long breaker's roar,
With a heart that beats as restless as all the winds that blow—
Thrust a cloth between her fingers, and tell her she must sew;
Must join in empty chatter, and calculate with straws—
For the weighing of our neighbour—for the sake of social laws.
O chatter, chatter, chatter, when to speak is misery,
When silence lies around your heart—and night is on the sea.
So tired of little fashions that are root of all our strife,
Of all the petty passions that upset the calm of life.
The law of God upon the land shines steady for all time;
The laws confused that man has made, have reason not nor rhyme.

O bird that fights the heavens, and is blown beyond the shore,
Would you leave your flight and danger for a cage to fight no more ?
No more the cold of winter, or the hunger of the snow,
Nor the winds that blow you backward from the path you wish to go ?
Would you leave your world of passion for a home that knows no riot ?
Would I change my vagrant longings for a heart more full of quiet ?
No!—for all its dangers, there is joy in danger too:
On, bird, and fight your tempests, and this nomad heart with you!
The seas that shake and thunder will close our mouths one day,
The storms that shriek and whistle will blow our breaths away.
The dust that flies and whitens will mark not where we trod.
What matters then our judging ? we are face to face with God.

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