The Legend of Glen Head


The Legend of Glen Head was one of Harte's few attempts at poetry, published in Scribner's Monthly, November 1877.
The Legend of Glen Head
Elderly Irish woman at spinning wheel, 1890


They say—though I know not what value to place
 On the strength of mere local report—
That this was her home,—though the tax list gives space,
 I observe, to. no fact of the sort.

But here she would sit; on that wheel spin her flax,—
 I here may remark that her hair
Was compared to that staple,—yet as to the facts
 There is no witness willing to swear.

Yet here she would sit, by that window reserved
 For her vines—like a "bower of bloom,"
You'll remark I am quoting—the fact I've observed
 Is that plants attract flies to the room.

The house and the window, the wheel and the flax
 Are still in their status preserved,—
And yet, what conclusion to draw from these facts,
 I regret I have never observed.

Her parents were lowly, her lover was poor;
 In brief it appears their sole plea
For turning Fitz-William away from her door
 Was that he was still poorer than she.

Yet why worldly wisdom was so cruel then
 And perfectly proper to-day
I am quite at a loss to conceive,—but my pen
 Is digressing. They drove him away.

Yon bracket supported the light she would trim
 Each night to attract by its gleam,
Moth-like, her Fitz-William, who fondly would swim
 To her side—seven miles and up-stream.

I know not how great was the length of his limb
 Or how strong was her love-taper's glow;
But it seems an uncommon long distance to swim
 And the light of a candle to show.

When her parents would send her quite early to bed
 She would place on yon bench with great care
A sandwich, instead of the crumbs that she fed,
 To her other wild pets that came there.

One night—though the date is not given, in view
 Of the fact that no inquest was found—
A corpse was discovered—Fitz-William's?—a few
 Have alleged—drifting out on the Sound.

At the news she fell speechless, and, day after day,
 She sank without protest or moan;
Till at last, like a foam-flake, she melted away—
 So 'tis said, for her grave is unknown.

Twenty years from that day to the village again,
 Came a mariner portly and gray,
Who was married at Hempstead—the record is plain
 Of the justice—on that fatal day.

He hired the house, and regretted the fate
 Of the parties whose legend I've told.
He made some repairs,—for 'tis proper to state
 That the house was exceedingly old.

His name was McCorkle—now, while there is naught
 To suggest of Fitz-William in that,
You'll remember, if living, our Fitz-William ought
 To have grown somewhat grayer and fat.

But this is conjecture. The fact still remains
 Of the vines and the flax as before.
And knowing your weakness I've taken some pains
 To present them, my love, nothing more.


facebook share button twitter share button reddit share button share on pinterest pinterest

Add The Legend of Glen Head to your library.

Return to the Bret Harte library , or . . . Read the next poem; The Society Upon the Stanislaus

© 2022