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Poetry of Amy Lowell
Sword Blades and Poppy Seed

The Forsaken

Holy Mother of God, Merciful Mary.  Hear me!  I am very weary.  I have come
from a village miles away, all day I have been coming, and I ache for such
far roaming.  I cannot walk as light as I used, and my thoughts grow confused.
I am heavier than I was.  Mary Mother, you know the cause!


Beautiful Holy Lady, take my shame away from me!  Let this fear
be only seeming, let it be that I am dreaming.  For months I have hoped
it was so, now I am afraid I know.  Lady, why should this be shame,
just because I haven't got his name.  He loved me, yes, Lady, he did,
and he couldn't keep it hid.  We meant to marry.  Why did he die?


That day when they told me he had gone down in the avalanche, and could not
be found until the snow melted in Spring, I did nothing.  I could not cry.
Why should he die?  Why should he die and his child live?  His little child
alive in me, for my comfort.  No, Good God, for my misery!  I cannot face
the shame, to be a mother, and not married, and the poor child to be reviled
for having no father.  Merciful Mother, Holy Virgin, take away this sin I did.
Let the baby not be.  Only take the stigma off of me!


I have told no one but you, Holy Mary.  My mother would call me "whore",
and spit upon me; the priest would have me repent, and have
the rest of my life spent in a convent.  I am no whore, no bad woman,
he loved me, and we were to be married.  I carried him always in my heart,
what did it matter if I gave him the least part of me too?  You were a virgin,
Holy Mother, but you had a son, you know there are times when a woman
must give all.  There is some call to give and hold back nothing.
I swear I obeyed God then, and this child who lives in me is the sign.
What am I saying?  He is dead, my beautiful, strong man!  I shall never
feel him caress me again.  This is the only baby I shall have.
Oh, Holy Virgin, protect my baby!  My little, helpless baby!


He will look like his father, and he will be as fast a runner and as good
a shot.  Not that he shall be no scholar neither.  He shall go to school
in winter, and learn to read and write, and my father will teach him to carve,
so that he can make the little horses, and cows, and chamois,
out of white wood.  Oh, No!  No!  No!  How can I think such things,
I am not good.  My father will have nothing to do with my boy,
I shall be an outcast thing.  Oh, Mother of our Lord God, be merciful,
take away my shame!  Let my body be as it was before he came.
No little baby for me to keep underneath my heart for those long months.
To live for and to get comfort from.  I cannot go home and tell my mother.
She is so hard and righteous.  She never loved my father, and we were born
for duty, not for love.  I cannot face it.  Holy Mother, take my baby away!
Take away my little baby!  I don't want it, I can't bear it!


And I shall have nothing, nothing!  Just be known as a good girl.
Have other men want to marry me, whom I could not touch, after having known
my man.  Known the length and breadth of his beautiful white body,
and the depth of his love, on the high Summer Alp, with the moon above,
and the pine-needles all shiny in the light of it.  He is gone, my man,
I shall never hear him or feel him again, but I could not touch another.
I would rather lie under the snow with my own man in my arms!


So I shall live on and on.  Just a good woman.  With nothing to warm my heart
where he lay, and where he left his baby for me to care for.  I shall not be
quite human, I think.  Merely a stone-dead creature.  They will respect me.
What do I care for respect!  You didn't care for people's tongues
when you were carrying our Lord Jesus.  God had my man give me my baby,
when He knew that He was going to take him away.  His lips will comfort me,
his hands will soothe me.  All day I will work at my lace-making,
and all night I will keep him warm by my side and pray the blessed Angels
to cover him with their wings.  Dear Mother, what is it that sings?
I hear voices singing, and lovely silver trumpets through it all.  They seem
just on the other side of the wall.  Let me keep my baby, Holy Mother.
He is only a poor lace-maker's baby, with a stain upon him,
but give me strength to bring him up to be a man.