The Sea-Wife


There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
 And a wealthy wife is she;
She breeds a breed o' rovin' men
 And casts them over sea.

And some are drowned in deep water,
 And some in sight o' shore,
And word goes back to the weary wife
 And ever she sends more.

For since that wife had gate or gear,
 Or hearth or garth or bield,
She willed her sons to the white harvest,
 And that is a bitter yield.

She wills her sons to the wet ploughing,
 To ride the horse of tree,
And syne her sons come back again
 Far-spent from out the sea.

The good wife's sons come home again
 With little into their hands,
But the lore of men that ha' dealt with men
 In the new and naked lands;

But the faith of men that ha' brothered men
 By more than easy breath,
And the eyes o' men that ha' read wi' men
 In the open books of death.

Rich are they, rich in wonders seen,
 But poor in the goods o' men;
So what they ha' got by the skin o' their teeth
 They sell for their teeth again.

For whether they lose to the naked life
 Or win to their hearts' desire,
They tell it all to the weary wife
 That nods beside the fire.

Her hearth is wide to every wind
 That makes the white ash spin;
And tide and tide and 'tween the tides
 Her sons go out and in;

(Out with great mirth that do desire
 Hazard of trackless ways,
In with content to wait their watch
 And warm before the blaze);

And some return by failing light,
 And some in waking dream,
For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts
 That ride the rough roof-beam.

Home, they come home from all the ports,
 The living and the dead;
The good wife's sons come home again
 For her blessing on their head!


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Return to the Rudyard Kipling Home Page, or . . . Read the next poem; The Second Voyage

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