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A Scottish Dozen: Uncollected Poems by Marion Bernstein

Linda Fleming and Edward Cohen



Published in the Glasgow Weekly Mail, 5 November 1881, p. 3.
Though there’s sorrow on the sea,
    Though there’s mourning on the shore,
There are some from care set free
    Who shall sorrow nevermore;
Now they slumber peacefully,
    All their toils and trials o’er.

You on whom affliction’s rod
    Falls so heavily to-day,
Question not the love of God
    Who has called your friends away;
’Neath the waves, as ’neath the sod,
    Just as calmly slumber they.

All must yield at last to death.
    Would you rather die alone
Or while death enfranchiseth
    Souls of friends to join your own?
Happy band that entereth
    Hand in hand the world unknown!

Mourners, weeping on the shore,
    You can soothe each other’s tears;
Grief so shared is soonest o’er—
    Sympathy sustains and cheers.
You will love each other more
    From this time through after years.

Though to you the ceaseless surge
    Of the waves along the shore
Only seems a dreary dirge
    For the friends you see no more,
Does it not your spirits urge
    To new hopes scarce felt before?

Does not Heaven seem more dear
    With so many loved ones there?
Surely its bright scenes appear
    Nearer now than once they were,
E’en while falls the mourner’s tear
    Does not hope rebuke despair!

Though bereavements rend the heart,
    Love is neither lost nor vain,
There is hope for those who part
    That they all shall meet again.
Faith gives peace ’mid sorrow’s smart—
    Peace divine that conquers pain.
Marion Bernstein was fascinated by accounts of storms and of perilous voyages. In an acrostic sonnet, she narrates the tale of Mary Mouat, who was rescued off the coast of Norway after drifting helplessly in a small fishing boat from the Shetland Islands for several days and nights; her male companions had been washed overboard in a storm, and she survived by lashing herself to the hatchway. “The East Coast Fishermen” was inspired by a report she read in the Glasgow Weekly Mail for 22 October 1881 of a “fearsome gale that swept over the entire kingdom.” More than 160 fishermen were drowned, and the few who were saved described the “awful suddenness,” the “howling north-east wind,” and the “terrible surf” as the worst they had ever encountered. Several boats capsized and disappeared; several were driven onto the rocks; one was toppled by an “immense wave” and “all its crew were lost.” Along the coast, in village after village, “wives and mothers and young girls were crying bitterly.” In her poem, Bernstein acknowledges the “sorrow on the sea” and the “mourning on the shore,” but she urges those who grieve to embrace the camaraderie in death of those who have drowned and in grief of those who survive them. Heaven, she concludes, seems nearer to the living for the presence there of the dead.