Dear Virgin Mary, far away,
Look down from Heaven while I pray.
Open your golden casement high,
And lean way out beyond the sky.
I am so little, it may be
A task for you to harken me.
O Lady Mary, I have bought
A candle, as the good priest taught.
I only had one penny, so
Old Goody Jenkins let it go.
It is a little bent, you see.
But Oh, be merciful to me!
I have not anything to give,
Yet I so long for him to live.
A year ago he sailed away
And not a word unto today.
I’ve strained my eyes from the sea-wall
But never does he come at all.
Other ships have entered port
Their voyages finished, long or short,
And other sailors have received
Their welcomes, while I sat and grieved.
My heart is bursting for his hail,
O Virgin, let me spy his sail.
~Hull down on the edge of a sun-soaked sea
Sparkle the bellying sails for me.
Taut to the push of a rousing wind
Shaking the sea till it foams behind,
The tightened rigging is shrill with the song:
“We are back again who were gone so long.”~
One afternoon I bumped my head.
I sat on a post and wished I were dead
Like father and mother, for no one cared
Whither I went or how I fared.
A man’s voice said, “My little lad,
Here’s a bit of a toy to make you glad.”
Then I opened my eyes and saw him plain,
With his sleeves rolled up, and the dark blue stain
Of tattooed skin, where a flock of quail
Flew up to his shoulder and met the tail
Of a dragon curled, all pink and green,
Which sprawled on his back, when it was seen.
He held out his hand and gave to me
The most marvellous top which could ever be.
It had ivory eyes, and jet-black rings,
And a red stone carved into little wings,
All joined by a twisted golden line,
And set in the brown wood, even and fine.
Forgive me, Lady, I have not brought
My treasure to you as I ought,
But he said to keep it for his sake
And comfort myself with it, and take
Joy in its spinning, and so I do.
It couldn’t mean quite the same to you.
Every day I met him there,
Where the fisher-nets dry in the sunny air.
He told me stories of courts and kings,
Of storms at sea, of lots of things.
The top he said was a sort of sign
That something in the big world was mine.
~Blue and white on a sun-shot ocean.
Against the horizon a glint in motion.
Full in the grasp of a shoving wind,
Trailing her bubbles of foam behind,
Singing and shouting to port she races,
A flying harp, with her sheets and braces.~
O Queen of Heaven, give me heed,
I am in very utmost need.
He loved me, he was all I had,
And when he came it made the sad
Thoughts disappear. This very day
Send his ship home to me I pray.
I’ll be a priest, if you want it so,
I’ll work till I have enough to go
And study Latin to say the prayers
On the rosary our old priest wears.
I wished to be a sailor too,
But I will give myself to you.
I’ll never even spin my top,
But put it away in a box. I’ll stop
Whistling the sailor-songs he taught.
I’ll save my pennies till I have bought
A silver heart in the market square,
I’ve seen some beautiful, white ones there.
I’ll give up all I want to do
And do whatever you tell me to.
Heavenly Lady, take away
All the games I like to play,
Take my life to fill the score,
Only bring him back once more!
~The poplars shiver and turn their leaves,
And the wind through the belfry moans and grieves.
The gray dust whirls in the market square,
And the silver hearts are covered with care
By thick tarpaulins. Once again
The bay is black under heavy rain.~
The Queen of Heaven has shut her door.
A little boy weeps and prays no more.
Dear Virgin Mary, far away,