ALL SOUL’S NIGHT
O MOTHER, mother, I swept the hearth, I set his chair and the white board spread,
I prayed for his coming to our kind Lady when Death’s sad doors would let out the dead;
A strange wind rattled the window-pane, and down the lane a dog howled on.
I called his name and the candle flame burnt dim, pressed a hand the doorlatch upon.
Deelish! Deelish! my woe forever that I could not sever coward flesh from fear.
I called his name and the pale Ghost came; but I was afraid to meet my dear.
O mother, mother, in tears I checked the sad hours past of the year that ’s o’er,
Till by God’s grace I might see his face and hear the sound of his voice once more;
The chair I set from the cold and wet, he took when he came from unknown skies
Of the land of the dead; on my bent brown head I felt the reproach of his saddened eyes;
I closed my lids on my heart’s desire, crouched by the fire, my voice was dumb;
At my clean-swept hearth he had no mirth, and at my table he broke no crumb.
Deelish! Deelish! my woe forever that I could not sever coward flesh from fear:
His chair put aside when the young cock cried, and I was afraid to meet my dear.
Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918) was an Irish poetess who could combine the ghostly and the tragic as only the Irish can. Thanks to Vicki McDonald Leppek for contributing this. She found it in Edmund Clarence Stedman’s ‘A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895′.