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The House By The Sea

by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, 1895

To-night I do the bidding of a ghost,
  A ghost that knows my misery;
In the lone dark I hear his wailing boast,
  "Now shalt thou speak with me."

Must I go back where all is desolate,
  Where reigns the terror of a curse,
To knock, a beggar, at my father's gate,
  That closed upon a hearse?

The old stone pier has crumbled in the sea;
  The tide flows through the garden wall;
Where grew the lily, and where hummed the bee,
  Black seaweeds rise and fall.

I see the empty nests beneath the eaves;
  No bird is near; the vines have died;
The orchard trees have lost the joy of leaves,
  The oaks their lordly pride.

Of what avail to set ajar the door
  Through which, when ruin fell, I fled?
If on the threshold I should stand once more,
  Shall I behold the dead?

Shall I behold, as on that fatal night,
  My mother from the window start,
When she was blasted by the evil sight,—
  The shame that broke her heart?

The yellow grass grows on my sister's grave;
  Her room is dark—she is not there;
I feel the rain, and hear the wild wind rave—
  My tears, and my despair.

A white-haired man is singing a sad song
  Amid the ashes on the hearth;
"Ashes to ashes, I have moaned so long
  I am alone on earth."

No more! no more! I cannot bear this pain;
  Shut the foul annals of my race;
Accursed the hand that opens them again,
  My dowry of disgrace.

And so, farewell, thou bitter, bitter ghost!
  When morning comes the shadows fly;
Before we part, I give this merry toast,—
  The dead that do not die!

Published in Poems

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