Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A BALLAD, by JANE BOWDLER



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A BALLAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Return return, my hapless spouse
Last Line: Let fancy paint the rest.
Subject(s): Children; Innocence; Parents; Trials; Childhood; Parenthood


"RETURN, return, my hapless spouse,
"Nor seek the fatal place,
"Where thoughtless crowds expecting stand
"To see thy child's disgrace.

"Methinks I see the judges set,
"The council all attend,
"And JEMMY trembling at the bar,
Bereft of every friend.

"How shall a mother's eye sustain
"The dreadful sight to see!——
"Return, return, my hapless spouse,
"And leave the task to me."

'Persuade me not, my faithful love,
'Persuade me not to go,
'But let me see my JEMMY'S face,
'And share in all his woe.

'I'll kneel before his judge's feet,
'And prayers and tears employ—
'For pity take my wretched life,
'But spare my darling boy.

'When trembling, prostrate in the dust,
'My heartfelt sorrows flow,
'Sure, sure, the hardest heart will melt
'To see a mother's woe.

'How did I watch his infant years,
'Through fond affection blind,
'And hop'd the comfort of my age
'In JEMMY's love to find!

'Oft when he join'd the youthful train,
'And rov'd the woods among,
'Full many a wishful look I sent,
'And thought he staid too long.

'And when at length I saw my boy
'Come bounding o'er the plain,
('The sprightliest of the sprightly throng,
'The foremost of the train)

'How have I gaz'd with fond delight,
'His harmless joy to see,
'As home he brought a load of flow'rs,
'And chose the best for me.

'Why would'st thou seek the noisy town,
'Where fraud and cunning dwell?—
'Alas! the heart that knows no guile
'Should choose the humble cell.

'So might I still with eager joy
'Expect my child's return;
'And not as now his hapless fate
'In bitter sorrow mourn.

'Last night when all was dark and still,
('O wond'rous tale to tell!)
'I heard a mournful solemn sound—
'Methought 'twas JEMMY'S knell.

'And oft amidst the dreary gloom
'I heard a dismal groan—
'And oft I felt a clay-cold hand,
'Which fondly press'd my own.

'Anon I heard the sound confus'd
'Of all the rustick train,
'And JEMMY'S fainting, trembling voice
'For pity begg'd in vain.

'Methought I saw the fatal cord,
'I saw him dragg'd along—
'I saw him seiz'd'——She could no more,
For anguish stopp'd her tongue.

Her faithful partner gently strove
Her sinking heart to cheer,
Yet while his lips of comfort spoke,
He could not hide a tear.

But now the voice of joy or woe
To her alike was vain;
Her thought still dwelt on JEMMY'S fate,
Her lips on JEMMY'S name.

Thus on the mournful pair advanc'd,
And reach'd the fatal place,
Where thoughtless crowds were gather'd round
To see their child's disgrace:——

Such crowds as run with idle gaze
Alike to every shew,
Nor heed a wretched father's tears,
Nor feel a mother's woe.——

Sudden she stopp'd—for now in view
The crowded hall appear'd—
Chill horror seiz'd her stiffen'd frame,
Her voice no more was heard.

She could not move, she could not weep,
Her hands were clasp'd on high;
And all her soul in eager gaze
Seem'd starting from her eye.

For her the husband trembled now
With tender anxious fear;
"O LUCY! turn and speak to me:"
But LUCY could not hear.

Still fix'd she stood in silent woe,
Still gazing on the door;
When lo! a murmur through the crowd
Proclaim'd the trial o'er.

At once the blood forsook her cheek,
Her feeble spirits fled;
When JEMMY flew into her arms,
And rais'd her drooping head.

The well-known voice recall'd her soul,
She clasp'd him to her breast:——
O joy too vast for words to tell!
Let Fancy paint the rest.





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