Elinor Morton Wylie
The Puritan's Ballad - Poem by Elinor Morton Wylie
My love came up from Barnegat,
The sea was in his eyes;
He trod as softly as a cat
And told me terrible lies.
His hair was yellow as new-cut pine
In shavings curled and feathered;
I thought how silver it would shine
By cruel winters weathered.
But he was in his twentieth year,
Ths time I'm speaking of;
We were head over heels in love with fear
And half a-feared of love.
My hair was piled in a copper crown --
A devilish living thing --
And the tortise-shell pins fell down, fell down,
When that snake uncoiled to spring.
His feet were used to treading a gale
And balancing thereon;
His face was as brown as a foreign sail
Threadbare against the sun.
His arms were thick as hickory logs
Whittled to little wrists;
Strong as the teeth of a terrier dog
Were the fingers of his fists.
Within his arms I feared to sink
Where lions shook their manes,
And dragons drawn in azure ink
Lept quickened by his veins.
Dreadful his strength and length of limb
As the sea to foundering ships;
I dipped my hands in love for him
No deeper than the tips.
But our palms were welded by a flame
The moment we came to part,
And on his knuckles I read my name
Enscrolled with a heart.
And something made our wills to bend,
As wild as trees blown over;
We were no longer friend and friend,
But only lover and lover.
"In seven weeks or seventy years --
God grant it may be sooner! --
I'll make a hankerchief for you
From the sails of my captain's schooner.
We'll wear our loves like wedding rings
Long polished to our touch;
We shall be busy with other things
And they cannot bother us much.
When you are skimming the wrinkled cream
And your ring clinks on the pan,
You'll say to yourself in a pensive dream,
'How wonderful a man!'
When I am slitting a fish's head
And my ring clanks on the knife,
I'll say with thanks as a prayer is said,
'How beautiful a wife!'
And I shall fold my decorous paws
In velvet smooth and deep,
Like a kitten that covers up its claws
To sleep and sleep and sleep.
Like a little blue pigeon you shall bow
Your bright alarming crest;
In the crook of my arm you'll lay your brow
To rest and rest and rest.
Will he never come back from Barnegat
With thunder in his eyes,
Treading as soft as a tiger cat,
To tell me terrible lies?
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