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?
- by Elinor Wylie (1885 - 1928), "The puritan's ballad" [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
- by John Woods Duke (1899 - 1984), "The puritan's ballad", 1946 [soprano and piano], Southern/Texas [ sung text not yet checked against a primary source]
Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
This text was added to the website: 2011-02-08
Line count: 68
Word count: 429