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The Greek Wife
JK (1784-1856 / Jamaica)

The Greek Wife

I love thee best, Old Ocean! when
Thy waters flow all-ripplingly;
And quiet lake, in inland glen,
Might seem, well nigh, a type of thee;
And when long-lingering lights of eve
Float o'er thy waves that hardly heave.
And anchor'd vessels seen afar,
Athwart the bay, with slanting shroud,
And crossing line of rope and spar,
Hang pictured on the yellow cloud;
While Silence, from the placid shore,
May count each pulse of distant oar.

And Spirit-Airs—for so they seem—
Are whispering of some far-off land.
For then doth Fancy love to dream
Along thy visionary strand;
And winneth tender thoughts from thee,—
Perchance too tender, Gentle Sea!
No mother-home is world of our's
For dreamy tenderness alone,
But a rude school; and sturdier powers
That shrink not from the shock—the groan—
And hearts heroical and free
Are thy stern teaching, Stormy Sea!
Hence—from this shore we love to view,
Yet with no meanly-safe delight,
Yon chafing surge of inky hue,
Whose foams, all ominously white,

As the white shroudings of the grave,
Curl o'er the black and greedy wave.
And now, beneath this darken'd sky,
By lightning flashes shown more dark,
Watch silently, with eager eye,
All wildly tost that Grecian bark,
Whose stoutest hand scarce holds the helm
'Mid whirling waves that rush to whelm.
That bark to guide a torch's light
Is gleaming thro' the troubled air.
Who lifts it there? In pale affright
A wife—a mother—lifts it there,
For him; who, spite of coming wreck,
All calmly treads his splitting deck.
And yet one pang he scarce may brook:
He knows who lights that dangerous strand.

Oh! might he gather one last look!
But clasp once more that loving hand!
Cease, raging Demons of the Dark!
And spare the light, and spare the bark.
She too, might power, like wishes, fly,
Would fly to tread that deck with him.
Again she lifts the torch on high;
But, half extinct, the torch is dim;
Or flickers useless light behind,
Back-driven by the cruel wind.
If that brave bark may triumph yet,
No guardian Spirit comes to tell;
Or if the Fates, in conclave met,
Hang brooding now o'er yonder swell,
As when on that disastrous night
Abydos saw the failing light.

If that brave bark may triumph yet,
We know not how 'tis doomed above;
But this for lesson sure is set,
That Courage firm and faithful Love,
Or if they live, or if they die,
Have each fulfilled their mission high.
Where faithful Love, where Courage glows,
The patriot virtues take their birth,
And thrive in home's serene repose;
Till bursting from the household hearth,
Throughout a land her every son,
At duty's call, up-starts as one.
Through what a dreary tract of time,
Hast thou not seen, Egean Wave!
Each dweller of thy storied clime
A struggler, now—and, now, a slave.

In war, in peace, struck down, or vext,
By Roman, first; by Moslem, next.
Yet Love hath never fled thy shore;
And Courage old still lingers there.
And them may Freedom more and more
Still nourish, with her new-born air,
In hearts of women and of men,
Till Salamis revive again.

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