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“I may not break thy bread, mother,”
The eldest ’gan to say, “But I will sit on thy hearth, mother,
And warm me while I may:
Beyond the northern shore,
For seven long years and more.
Can set my body free;
And Winter keeps the key.
Because of a broken vow,
That holds my body now!
I took me to the sea,
That there was built for me;
Her hull of the oaken tree.
“ Her sails were of the canvas stout,
To face the fiercest wind, And I manned her with twenty-four young men,
The bravest that I could find.
“ And away we sailed, through rough and smooth,
Away to the Indian seas,
And killed their companies. “Our ship was laden with seven ship’s store,' .
From the top-mast to the hold; And all we used in that lordly ship
Was made of the beaten gold.
And heavily she sailed, and slow:-
When not a breath did blow !
“I woke as from a frightful dream,
In a bower, I knew not where, And by me knelt an Indian maid,
Who cooled the burning air ; With a sweet fan of Indian flowers,
She cooled the burning air.
“'T was the kindest maid that ever loved,
A very child in truth;
In the glory of her youth.
A rich, barbaric place;
The love of all her race.
“They clothed me as they clothe a king,
They set me next the throne, And twenty snow-white elephants
They gave me for mine own.
“Ah, me! how I requited them,
It has been told in heaven! And a thousand years must come and go
Ere that sin be forgiven:
“ And a thousand more must come and go
. Ere from my soul can fall The burthen of my broken vows,
The heaviest guilt of all !
“I trampled on her true heart's love,
The Indian stream ran red, -
With the pure young blood I shed !
“Once more I built myself a boat,
Of the heart of the hard teak-tree, I took no mariners on board,
And again I went to sea.
“My mast was made of the Indian cane,
My sail of the silken twine; My ropes they were of the tendrils strong I pulled from the Indian vine.
“ I laded my boat with a thousand things
That guilt had made my own; The meanest things I took with me
Were the pearl and the diamond stone.
“ 'T was a heavy freight—'t was a heavy freight
That lay the boat within ; But the heaviest weight was in my soul - .
The load of seven years' sin !
“ I never again set foot on land,
It had no port for me,-
So I was on the sea.
“ My food was the fish my bark beside,
My drink the gathered rain ; And I grew horrid to look upon,
A spectre of the main !
“My fame was a terror everywhere,
Like a Spirit of the blast,
Its people looked aghast.
“Thou could'st not have known thy son, mother,
Hadst thou beheld my face, When, after seven years voyaging,
I found my resting place ;
“In the wild north-sea, 'neath the billowy ice
I lie, while time shall be,
Who made that grave for me!
“But the first cock crows-I must be gone!-
No more have I to tell;
Dear mother, fare thee well!”
The second spake—" Woe's me for sin !
My elder brother's guilt is light; His place of torment is the earth,
And there comes day and night!
“ I left thy pleasant home, mother,
With thy blessing on my head, — Thy wisest son, as people deemed;
And to the city sped.
“I lived a life of rioting,
To an ill course was bent;
In wickedness I spent.
“I ran the round of low debauch,
Careless though all might see,There was no goodness in my soul,
No human dignity.