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Poem by Menella Bute Smedley

A Letter

Where were you when I suffered? My heart was very faint;
It wanted a heart to lean on; where was yours at the time?
I hope you were happy somewhere; I hope no passing taint
Of the chill air I was breathing troubled your softer clime.
Always I think about you, and I am afraid at night;
For before I dream I fancy, and my dreams are fancy-marred;

And I see you lying wounded, with your face upturned to the light,
And I cannot stoop to kiss it; and, oh, my dream is hard!
Last night I read and waited, there was but the light of the fire,
When I thought you stood behind me, and I dared not turn my head.
Why was my heart so poor as to shrink from its best desire?
I think you were here for a moment; but when I turned, you were fled.
Where were you at that moment? were you thinking of me?
Were you watching the turbans wind up the dry brown slope?
And when they reached the top, and you knew they looked at the sea,
Were you dreaming of England? had you an hour of hope?

O! that hope is so dreary! I have it always here;
Whenever it plays me false, they tell me I must not doubt.
But though we call it hope, it is only a mask for fear;
And it never lets me rest, and I think it is wearing me out.
You will hardly know me again, I am grown so pale and thin;
I looked in the glass to-day, and my face is old and strange.
And I felt a pang of dread when they told me the mail was come in;
For I thought if you came home, that you would not like the change.
I suppose you are brown and fierce, and your eyes are ready to flash;
You walk erect and swift; you have always something to do.

Ah, you men are happy! you live with a burst and a dash;
Weeping wastes us away, but work ennobles you.
I am a pain in my home; they watch me with looks of distress;
Always they soften their tones when they ask me Dear, will you go?
And because I want them to smile, I often smile and say Yes;
But as the dance grows gay, I wish I had dared to say No.
For I should not like, when we sit together, and talk, and trace
Our joy coming step by step through the gloom while you were away,
I should not like to see one doubt flit over your face;
Perhaps she hardly missed me, her life was so light and gay.

Ah, a letter again! It brings no tidings to me.
I have hardly the heart to look, and I feel too tired to speak.
What, you are coming home! you are crossing the dear, kind sea!
You are rushing home to me now! I shall see your face in a week!
He is coming! where are you all? He is coming! do you not know?
See, I am kissing the words which I was afraid to read!
What are you saying, mother? why do you look at me so?
Ten years younger, mother? Yes, I should think so indeed.

Menella Bute Smedley

Menella Bute Smedley's other poems:
  1. What Hearest Thou?
  2. To a Little Girl
  3. The Lay of King James I in his Captivity
  4. One and Another
  5. Grizzel Hume

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