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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Thomas Wade 1805–75

The Net-Braiders

WITHIN a low-thatch’d hut, built in a lane

Whose narrow pathway tendeth toward the ocean,

A solitude which, save of some rude swain

Or fisherman, doth scarce know human motion—

Or of some silent poet, to the main

Straying, to offer infinite devotion

To God, in the free universe—there dwelt

Two women old, to whom small store was dealt

Of the world’s misnam’d good: mother and child,

Both aged and mateless. These two life sustain’d

By braiding fishing-nets; and so beguil’d

Time and their cares, and little e’er complain’d

Of Fate or Providence: resign’d and mild,

Whilst day by day, for years, their hour-glass rain’d

Its trickling sand, to track the wing of time,

They toil’d in peace; and much there was sublime

In their obscure contentment: of mankind

They little knew, or reck’d; but for their being

They bless’d their Maker, with a simple mind;

And in the constant gaze of his all-seeing

Eye, to his poorest creatures never blind,

Deeming they dwelt, they bore their sorrows fleeing,

Glad still to live, but not afraid to die,

In calm expectance of Eternity.

And since I first did greet those braiders poor,

If ever I behold fair women’s cheeks

Sin-pale in stately mansions, where the door

Is shut to all but pride, my cleft heart seeks

For refuge in my thoughts, which then explore

That pathway lone near which the wild sea breaks,

And to Imagination’s humble eyes

That hut, with all its want, is Paradise!