As I worked on my arch for this week's theme at Gothic Arches, for some reason I started thinking of an art song I learned and performed in collage, Down Bye Street, by Sidney Homer. The lyrics are from a poem by John Masefield, The Widow in the Bye Street, and recount the tale of a woman's sacrifice for her son by working night and day as a seamstress. The poem reminds me of my friend, Donata. She'll understand why.
The Widow in the Bye Street
Down Bye Street, in a little Shropshire town,
There lived a widow with her only son.
She had no wealth nor title to renown,
Nor any joyous hours, never one.
She rose from ragged mattress before sun
And stitched all day until her eyes were red,
And had to stitch, because her man was dead.
Her little son was all her life's delight,
For in his little features she could find
A glimpse of that dead husband out of sight,
Where out of sight is never out of mind.
And so she stitched till she was nearly blind,
Or till the tallow candle end was done,
To get a living for her little son,
Her love for him being such she could not rest,
It was a want which ate her out and in,
Another hunger in her withered breast
Pressing her woman's bones against the skin.
To make him plump she starved her body thin.
And he, he ate the food and never knew,
He laughed and played as little children do.
So years went on till Jimmy was a lad
And went to work as poor lads have to do,
And then the widow's loving heart was glad
To know that all the pains she had gone through,
And all the years of putting on the screw,
Down to the sharpest turn a mortal can,
Had borne their fruit and made her child a man.
- John Masefield