Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Breton Wife


A Wintertide we had been wed
When Jan went off to sea;
And now the laurel rose is red
And I wait on the quay.
His berthing boat I watch with dread,
For where, oh where is he?

"Weep not, brave lass," the Skipper said;
"Return to you he will;
In hospital he lies abed
In Rio in Brazil;
But though I know he is not dead,
I do not know his ill."

The Seaman's Hospital I wrote,
And soon there came reply.
The nurse's very words I quote:
"Your husband will not die;
But you must wait a weary boat -
I cannot tell you why."

The months of sun went snailing by.
I wrote by every mail,
Yet ever came the same reply:
"Your patience must not fail.
But though your good lad will not die,
We cannot tell his ail."

* * * * * * * * *

Ten months have gone - he's back again,
But aged by years a score,
And tells me with a look of pain
He'll never voyage more;
And at the tide, with longing vain,
He stares from out the door.

And in his sleep he turns from me
And moans with bitter blame
Of Spanish jades beyond the sea
Who wrought him evil shame,
So ever in him bleak will be
The Ill That Has No Name.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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