The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

0 readings

0

Who voted?

"SON," said my mother,

When I was knee-high,

"You've need of clothes to cover you,

And not a rag have I.

"There's nothing in the house

To make a boy breeches,

Nor shears to cut a cloth with

Nor thread to take stitches.

"There's nothing in the house

But a loaf-end of rye,

And a harp with a woman's head

Nobody will buy,"

And she began to cry.

That was in the early fall.

When came the late fall,

"Son," she said, "the sight of you

Makes your mother's blood crawl,–

"Little skinny shoulder-blades

Sticking through your clothes!

And where you'll get a jacket from

God above knows.

"It's lucky for me, lad,

Your daddy's in the ground,

And can't see the way I let

His son go around!"

And she made a queer sound.

That was in the late fall.

When the winter came,

I'd not a pair of breeches

Nor a shirt to my name.

I couldn't go to school,

Or out of doors to play.

And all the other little boys

Passed our way.

"Son," said my mother,

"Come, climb into my lap,

And I'll chafe your little bones

While you take a nap."

And, oh, but we were silly

For half an hour or more,

Me with my long legs

Dragging on the floor,

A-rock-rock-rocking

To a mother-goose rhyme!

Oh, but we were happy

For half an hour's time!

But there was I, a great boy,

And what would folks say

To hear my mother singing me

To sleep all day,

In such a daft way?

Men say the winter

Was bad that year;

Fuel was scarce,

And food was dear.

A wind with a wolf's head

Howled about our door,

And we burned up the chairs

And sat upon the floor.

All that was left us

Was a chair we couldn't break,

And the harp with a woman's head

Nobody would take,

For song or pity's sake.

The night before Christmas

I cried with the cold,

I cried myself to sleep

Like a two-year-old.

And in the deep night

I felt my mother rise,

And stare down upon me

With love in her eyes.

I saw my mother sitting

On the one good chair,

A light falling on her

From I couldn't tell where,

Looking nineteen,

And not a day older,

And the harp with a woman's head

Leaned against her shoulder.

Her thin fingers, moving

In the thin, tall strings,

Were weav-weav-weaving

Wonderful things.

Many bright threads,

From where I couldn't see,

Were running through the harp-strings

Rapidly,

And gold threads whistling

Through my mother's hand.

I saw the web grow,

And the pattern expand.

She wove a child's jacket,

And when it was done

She laid it on the floor

And wove another one.

She wove a red cloak

So regal to see,

"She's made it for a king's son,"

I said, "and not for me."

But I knew it was for me.

She wove a pair of breeches

Quicker than that!

She wove a pair of boots

And a little cocked hat.

She wove a pair of mittens,

She wove a little blouse,

She wove all night

In the still, cold house.

She sang as she worked,

And the harp-strings spoke;

Her voice never faltered,

And the thread never broke.

And when I awoke,–

There sat my mother

With the harp against her shoulder

Looking nineteen

And not a day older,

A smile about her lips,

And a light about her head,

And her hands in the harp-strings

Frozen dead.

And piled up beside her

And toppling to the skies,

Were the clothes of a king's son,

Just my size.

0