Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NORA'S CHARM, by PHOEBE CARY

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NORA'S CHARM, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Twas the fisher's wife at her neighbor's door
Last Line: "and lets the evil in!"
Subject(s): Fairies; Evil; Good; Charms (Magic)

'T WAS the fisher's wife at her neighbor's door,
And she cried, as she wrung her hands,
"O Nora, get your cloak and hood,
And haste with me o'er the sands."

Now a kind man was the fisherman,
And a lucky man was he;
And never a steadier sailed away
From the Bay of Cromarty.

And the wife had plenty on her board,
And the babe in her arms was fair;
But her heart was always full of fear,
And her brow was black with care.

And she stood at her neighbor's door and cried,
"Oh, woe is me this night!
For the fairies have stolen my pretty babe,
And left me an ugly sprite.

"My pretty babe, that was more than all
The wealth of the world to me;
With his coral lips, and his hair of gold,
And his teeth like pearls of the sea!

"I went to look for his father's boat,
When I heard the stroke of the oar;
And I left him cooing soft in his bed,
As the bird in her nest by the door.

"And there was the father fair in sight,
And pulling hard to the land;
And my foot was back o'er the sill again,
Ere his keel had struck the sand.

"But the fairies had time to steal my babe,
And leave me in his place
A restless imp, with a wicked grin,
And never a smile on his face."

And Nora took her cloak and hood,
And softly by the hand
She led the fisher's wife through the night,
Across the yellow sand.

"Nay, do not rave, and talk so wild;"
'T was Nora thus that spoke;
"We must have our wits to work against
The arts of fairy folk.

"There's a charm to help us in our need,
But its power we cannot try,
With the black cloud hanging o'er the brow,
And the salt tear in the eye.

"For wicked things may gibe and grin
With noisy jeer and shout;
But the joyous peal of a happy laugh
Has power to drive them out.

"And if this sprite we can but please,
Till he laughs with merry glee,
We shall break the spell that holds him here,
And keeps the babe from your knee."

So the mother wiped her tears away,
And patiently and long
They plied the restless, stubborn imp
With cunning trick and song.

They blew a blast on the fisher's horn,
Each curious prank they tried;
They rocked the cradle where he lay,
As a boat is rocked on the tide.

But there the hateful creature kept,
In place of the human child;
And never once his writhing ceased,
And never once he smiled.

Then Nora cried, "Take yonder egg
That lies upon the shelf,
And make of it two hollow cups,
Like tiny cups of delf."

And the mother took the sea-mew's egg,
And broke in twain the shell,
And made of it two tiny cups,
And filled them at the well.

She filled them up as Nora bade,
And set them on the coals:
And the imp grew still, for he ne'er had seen
In fairy-land such bowls.

And when the water bubbled and boiled,
Like a fountain in its play,
Mirth bubbled up to his lips, and he laughed
Till he laughed himself away!

And the mother turned about, and felt
The heart in her bosom leap;
For the imp was gone, and there in his place
Lay her baby fast asleep.

And Nora said to her neighbor, "Now
There sure can be no doubt
But a merry heart and a merry laugh
Drive evil spirits out!

"And who can say but the dismal frown
And the doleful sigh are the sin
That keeps the good from our homes and hearts,
And lets the evil in!"

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