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The Old Fisherman Post by :techguru Category :Poems Author :Matilda Betham Date :August 2011 Read :3452

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The Old Fisherman

'My bosom is chill'd with the cold,
My limbs their lost vigour deplore!
Alas! to the lonely and old,
Hope warbles her promise no more!

'Worn out with the length of my way,
I must rest me awhile on the beach,
To feel the salt dash of the spray,
If haply so far it may reach.

'As the white-foaming billows arise,
I reflect on the days that are past,
When the pride of my strength could despise
The keen-driving force of the blast.

'Though the heavens might menace on high,
I would still push my vessel from shore;
At my calling undauntedly ply,
And sing as I handled the oar.

'When fortune rewarded my toil,
And my nets, deeply-laden, I drew,
I hurried me home with the spoil,
And its inmates rejoic'd at the view.

'Though the winds and the waves were perverse,
I was sure to be welcom'd with glee;
My presence the cares would disperse,
That were only awaken'd for me.

'Whether weary, with toiling in vain,
Or gay, from abundant success,
I heard the same blessing again,--
I met the same tender caress:

'I fancied the perils repay'd,
That could such affection ensure;
By fondness and gratitude sway'd,
I was eager to dare and endure.

'My cot did each comfort contain,
And that gave my bosom delight;
When drench'd by the winterly rain,
I watch'd in my vessel at night.

'But, alas! from the tyrant, Disease,
What love or what caution can save!
A fever, more harsh than the seas,
Consign'd my poor wife to the grave.

'My children, so tenderly rear'd,
And pining for want of her care,
Though more by my sorrows endear'd,
Could not rescue my heart from despair.

'I tempted the dangers of night,
And still labour'd hard at the oar,
My sufferings appear'd to be light,
But I suffer'd with pleasure no more.

'And yet, when some seasons had roll'd,
I seem'd to awaken anew;
My children I lov'd to behold,
How tall and how comely they grew.

'My boy became hardy and bold,
His spirit was buoyant and free;
And, as I grew thoughtful and old,
Was loud and oppressive to me.

'But the girl, like a bird in the bower,
Awaken'd my hope and my pride;
She won on my heart ev'ry hour,
And I could not the preference hide.

'I mark'd the address and the care,
The manner endearing and mild,
Not dreaming those qualities rare
Were to murther the peace of my child:

'That grandeur would ever descend
To seek for so lowly a bride,
Or his fair one, a lover pretend,
From all she held dear to divide:

'That beauty was priz'd like a gem,
Expected to dazzle and shine,
Whose value the world would contemn,
Unless trac'd to some Indian mine:

'Alas! hapless girl! had I known
Thou hadst learnt to repine at thy lot;
That splendour and rank were thy own,
Thy home and thy father forgot:

'That lore and ambition assail'd,
Thou hadst left us, whatever befel!
My pardon and prayers had prevail'd,
I had blest thee, and bade thee farewel!

'With thy husband, from this happy clime,
I had seen thee for ever depart!
Still hoping affection and time
Might soften the pride of his heart:

'That a moment perhaps would arise,
When, fondling a child on the knee,
He might read, in its innocent eyes
A lesson of pity for me.

'But lips, which till then never said
A word to cause any one pain,
Inform'd me, when reason had fled,
Of a conflict it could not sustain.

'And he, who had wish'd to conceal
That the woman he lov'd had been poor,
Began all his folly to feel,
When the victim could hearken no more.

'Yet still for himself did he mourn,
And, indignant, I fled from the view:
For my wrongs were not easily borne,
And my anger was hard to subdue.

'One prop, one sole comfort, remain'd,
Who saw me o'erladen with grief,
Who saw (though I never complain'd)
My heart was too sick for relief.

'One, who always attentive and dear,
Every effort exerted to please,
My desolate prospect to cheer,
To study my health and my ease.

'For his was each toil and each care,
The due observations to keep;
To sit watching amid the night air,
And fancy his father asleep.

'Yet, dejected, and sadly forlorn,
I dar'd in my heart to repine,--
To lament that I ever was born,
Though such worth and affection were mine.

'Alas! I was destin'd to know,
However intense my despair,
I still was reserv'd for a blow,
More painful and cruel to bear.

'Yes! this only one fell in the main!
--I eagerly struggled to save;
But I strove with the current in vain,
And saw him sink under the wave!

'My head was astounded and wild,--
Incessant I roam'd on the shore,
To seek the dead corse of my child,
And to weep on his bosom once more.

'Seven days undisturb'd was the sky,
The eighth was a tempest most drear,
I saw the huge billow rise high!
I saw my lost treasure appear!

'Like a dream it seem'd passing away:--
I hurried me onward to meet,
And clasp the inanimate clay,
When senseless I sunk at his feet.

'These hands, now enfeebled by time,
The last pious offices paid!
Age sorrow'd o'er youth in its prime,
And my boy near his mother was laid.

'Now scar'd by the griefs I have known,
Wounds, apathy only can heal,
My joys and my sorrows are flown,
For I have forgotten to feel.

'But I know my Creator is just,
That his hand will deliver me soon;
I have learnt to submit and to trust,
Though I finish my journey alone.'

Aldborough, September 7, 1800.

(The end)
Matilda Betham's poem: Old Fisherman

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