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.


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature:
accessed August 22, 2003.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:

CST Approved

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