Eavan Boland reads
The Wife’s Lament
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I sing this poem full of grief. Full of sorrow about my life. Ready to say the cruel state I have endured, early and late, And never more I will tell Than now—now that exile Has fallen to me with all its pain. My lord had gone, had fled away Over the sea. The break of day Found me grieving for a prince Who had left his people. Then at once I set out on my journey, Little more than a refugee, Lacking a retinue and friends, With needy means and needy ends. They plotted together, his kith and kin. They met in secret, they made a plan To keep us as far apart, away From each other, night and day As ever they could while making sure I would feel anguish and desire. My lord and master made his will Plain to me: He said, be still: Stay right here, in this place. And here I am—penniless, friendless, Lacking him, my heart’s companion And sad indeed because our union Suited me so well, so well And for so long. And yet the real State of his heart, the actual weakness Of his mind, the true darkness Of murderous sin was hidden away. And yet I well remember the day, Our singular joy on this earth When we two vowed that only death Could separate us. Now I see Love itself has deserted me: Love that was so true, so trusted Is now as if it never existed. Wherever I go, far or near, Enmity springs from what is dear. I was commanded to this grove Under an oak tree to this cave— An ancient cave—and I am filled With longing here where hedges, wild With briars, valleys, rollings, Steep hills make a joyless dwelling Often here, the fact of his leaving Seizes my heart. There are lovers living On this earth who keep their beds While I am walking in the woods Through these caves alone at dawn. Here I sit. Here I mourn, Through the summer hours, all my woes, My exiled state, I can’t compose My careworn heart nor ease the strife Of that desire which is my life. Let a young man be sober, tough And sunny withal however weighed Down his soul, however sad. And if it happens joy is his choice May his self be its only source. My lostlord, my lover-felon— Let him be cast from his land alone By an icy cliff in a cold storm. Let his own mind bedevil him With weariness as the water flows Far below his makeshift house. Let my weary friend beside the sea Suffer his cruel anxiety Let him be reminded of this place Of another dwelling: all its grace, And all the affliction, all the cost Of longing for a love that’s lost. Listen to more readings from The Word Exchange »