by Isabella Valancy Crawford
O little, whisp'ring, murm'ring shell, say cans't thou tell to me
Good news of any stately ship that sails upon the sea?
I press my ear, O little shell, against thy rosy lips;
Cans't tell me tales of those who go down to the sea in ships?
What, not a word? Ah hearken, shell, I've shut the cottage door;
There's scarce a sound to drown thy voice, so silent is the moor,
A bell may tinkle far away upon its purple rise;
A bee may buz among the heath—a lavrock cleave the skies.
But if you only breathe the name I name upon my knees,
Ah, surely I should catch the word above such sounds as these.
And Grannie's needles click no more, the ball of yarn is done,
And she's asleep outside the door where shines the merry sun.
One night while Grannie slept, I dreamed he came across the moor,
And stood, so handsome, brown and tall, beside the open door:
I thought I turned to pick a rose that by the sill had blown,
(He liked a rose) and when I looked, O shell, I was alone!
Across the moor there dwells a wife; she spaed my fortune true,
And said I'd plight my troth with one who ware a jacket blue;
That morn before my Grannie woke, just when the lapwing stirred,
I sped across the misty rise and sought the old wife's word.
With her it was the milking time, and while she milk'd the goat,
I ask'd her then to spae my dream, my heart was in my throat—
But that was just because the way had been so steep and long,
And not because I had the fear that anything was wrong.
"Ye'll meet, ye'll meet," was all she said; "Ye'll meet when it is mirk."
I gave her tippence that I meant for Sabbath-day and kirk;
And then I hastened back again; it seemed that never sure
The happy sun delay'd so long to gild the purple moor.
That's six months back, and every night I sit beside the door,
And while I knit I keep my gaze upon the mirky moor;
I keep old Collie by my side—he's sure to spring and bark,
When Ronald comes across the moor to meet me in the dark.
I know the old wife spaed me true, for did she not fore-tell
I'd break a ring with Ronald Grey beside the Hidden Well?
It came to pass at shearing-time, before he went to sea
(We're nighbours' bairns) how could she know that Ronald cared for me.
So night by night I watch for him—by day I sing and work,
And try to never mind the latch—he's coming in the dark;
Yet as the days and weeks and months go slipping slowly thro',
I wonder if the wise old wife has spaed my fortune true!
Ah, not a word about his ship? Well, well, I'll lay thee by.
I see a heron from the marsh go sailing in the sky,
The purple moor is like a dream, a star is twinkling clear—
Perhaps the meeting that she spaed is drawing very near!