The Deserted Wife

HE comes not--I have watch'd the moon go down,
But yet he comes not--Once it was not so.
He thinks not how these bitter tears do flow,
The while he holds his riot in that town.
Yet he will come, and chide, and I shall weep;
And he will wake my infant from its sleep,
To blend its feeble wailing with my tears.
O! how I love a mother's watch to keep,
Over those sleeping eyes, that smile, which cheers
My heart
, though sunk in sorrow, fix'd and deep.
I had a husband once, who loved me--now
He ever wears a frown upon his brow,
And feeds his passion on a wanton's lip,
As bees, from laurel flowers, a poison sip;
But yet I cannot hate--O! there were hours,
When I could hang for ever on his eye,
And time who stole with silent swiftness by,
Strew'd, as he hurried on, his path with flowers.
I loved him then--he loved me too--My heart
Still finds its fondness kindle, if he smile;
The memory of our loves will ne'er depart;
And though he often sting me with a dart,
Venom'd and barb'd, and waste upon the vile,
Caresses which his babe and mine should share;
Though he should spurn me, I will calmly bear
His madness--and should sickness come, and lay
Its paralyzing hand upon him, then
I would, with kindness, all my wrongs repay,
Until the penitent should weep, and say
How injured, and how faithful I had been.

James Gates Percival (1795–1856)


James Gates Percival, notes The Cambridge History of English and American Literature ....."belongs chiefly to the student of human nature; lonely, shy, unmarried, disappointed, poor, and dirty, he was in appearance and mode of life a character for Dickens, in heart and soul a character for Thackeray or George Eliot." Most of Percivel's work was conceived as a crude form of Romanticism by his peerage and William Cullen Bryant puts his views succinctly in Percivel's obituary (1856) in the The Evening Post where he critiqued, "He was once a famous man."

I'm unable to find a publishing date for this poem, but considering it was written by an American 179 years ago, it's safe to say it's in public domain. I think one of the notable things about this piece is that not only does it give a glimpse into what was meaningful to the people who read and wrote poetry then, but rather directly in a way that history books can't compare. Lastly, I think the most important thing to learn is how much people then were like us. It could have been written yesterday or three hundred years ago.

Sources:

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature:
www.bartleby.com/225/1419.html
accessed August 22, 2003.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/percival.html#1


CST Approved

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