Richard Francis Burton
On A Ferry Boat
THE RIVER widens to a pathless sea
Beneath the rain and mist and sullen skies.
Look out the window; ’t is a gray emprise,
This piloting of massed humanity
On such a day, from shore to busy shore,
And breeds the thought that beauty is no more.
But see yon woman in the cabin seat,
The Southland in her face and foreign dress;
She bends above a babe, with tenderness
That mothers use; her mouth grows soft and sweet.
Then, lifting eyes, ye saints in heaven, what pain
In that strange look of hers into the rain!
There lies a vivid band of scarlet red
With careless grace across her raven hair;
Her cheek burns brown; and ’t is her way to wear
A gown where colors stand in satin’s stead.
Her eye gleams dark as any you may see
Along the winding roads of Italy.
What dreamings must be hers of sunny climes,
This beggar woman midst the draggled throng!
How must she pine for solaces of song,
For warmth and love to furnish laughing-times!
Her every glance upon the waters gray
Is piteous with some lost yesterday.
I ’ve seen a dove, storm-beaten, far at sea;
And once a flower growing stark alone
From out a rock; I ’ve heard a hound make moan,
Left masterless: but never came to me
Ere this such sense of creatures torn apart
From all that fondles life and feeds the heart.
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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