There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
And a wealthy wife is she;
She breeds a breed of rovin' men,
And sends them over the sea.
And some are drowned in deep water,
And some in sight of shore;
And the word goes back to the weary wife,
And ever she sends more.
For since that wife had gate or gear,
Or hearth or garth or bield,
She's willed her sons to the white harvest,
And that is a bitter yield.
She's willed her sons to the wet ploughing,
For to ride the horse of tree;
And syne her sons come back again,
Far-spent from out the sea.
Rich are they in wonders seen,
But poor in the goods of men;
For what they've got by the skin of their teeth,
They sell for their teeth again.
And whether they lose to the naked knife,
Or win to their hearts' desire,
They tell it all to the weary wife,
Who nods beside the fire.
Her hearth is wide to every wind
That makes the white ash spin;
And tide and tide and 'tween the tides
Her sons go out and in.
(Out with a mirth that do desire
The hazard of trackless ways;
And in with content to wait their watch
And warm before the blaze.)
And some return in the fading light,
And some in a waking dream;
For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts,
That ride the rough roof-beam.
Home they come from all the ports,
The living and the dead;
The good wife's sons come home again,
For her blessings on their head.