The Longing Letter
MY mother writes: “My son on pilgrimage,
How long beneath a strange moon will you roam?
How long a time must pass ere your poor head
To my warm bosom I may press, at home?
“Oh, long enough upon strange stairs have trod
Your feet, which in my palms I warmed one day—
Your heart, in which my breasts were emptied once,
Far from my empty heart has pined away!
“My arms are weary at the spinning wheel;
I weave my shroud, too, with my hair of snow.
Ah, would mine eyes could see you once again,
Then close forever, with my heart below!
“Always I sit in sadness at my door,
And tidings ask from every crane that flies.
That willow slip you planted long ago
Has grown till over me its shadow lies.
“I wait in vain for your return at eve.
All the brave fellows of the village pass,
The laborer goes by, the herdsman bold—
I with the moon am left alone, alas!
“ My ruined house is left without a head.
Sometimes for death, and always for the cheer
Of my own hearth I yearn. A tortoise I,
Whose entrails to its broken shell adhere!
“Oh, come, my son, your ancient home restore!
They burst the door, they swept the larders bare.
Now all the swallows of the spring come in
Through shattered windows, open to the air.
“ Of all the goodly flocks of long ago
One brave ram only in our stable stands.
His mother once—remember, little son—
While yet a lamb, ate oats out of your hands.
“Rice, bran and clover fine I give him now,
To nourish his rich dmak, of noble size;
I comb his soft wool with a wooden comb;
He is a dear and precious sacrifice.
“When you come back, his head with roses wreathed,
He shall be sacrificed to feast you, sweet;
And in his blood, my well-beloved son,
I then will wash my pilgrim’s weary feet.”
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