The Sea-Wife

There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,
  And a wealthy wife is she;
She breeds a breed o’ rovin’ men
  And casts them over sea. 

And some are drowned in deep water,
  And some in sight o’ shore,
And 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 willed her sons to the white harvest,
  And that is a bitter yield. 

She wills her sons to the wet ploughing,
   To ride the horse of tree,
And syne her sons come back again
   Far-spent from out the sea. 

The good wife’s sons come home again
  With little into their hands,
But the lore of men that ha’ dealt with men
   In the new and naked lands; 

But the faith of men that ha’ brothered men
  By more than easy breath,
And the eyes o’ men that ha’ read wi’ men
  In the open books of death. 

Rich are they, rich in wonders seen,
   But poor in the goods o’ men;
So what they ha’ got by the skin o’ their teeth
   They sell for their teeth again. 

For whether they lose to the naked life
  Or win to their hearts’ desire,
They tell it all to the weary wife
  That 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 great mirth that do desire
  Hazard of trackless ways—
In with content to wait their watch
   And warm before the blaze); 

And some return by failing light,
  And some in waking dream,
For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts
  That ride the rough roof-beam. 

Home, they come home from all the ports,
  The living and the dead;
The good wife’s sons come home again
   For her blessing on their head!