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(after Ibsen)

She  Born in a lighthouse, I still find it hard

as wife to a doctor ten miles from the coast.

My home is a pleasant one but I get bored;

the mountains bother me. Now, like a ghost,

you show up here, severe and adamant.

What are you anyhow? What do you want?

He  I am a simple man upon the land,

I am a seal upon the open sea.

Your eyes are of the depths. Give me your hand,

give me your heart and come away with me.

to the Spice Islands, the South Seas; anywhere.

Only the force of habit keeps you here.

She  Even up here, enclosed, I sniff the brine,

the open sea out there beyond the beach;

my thoughts are waves, my dreams are estuarine

and deeper than an anchor chain could reach.

I knew you'd come, like some demonic fate

glimpsed at a window or garden gate.

He  How can you live here with no real horizon,

someone like you, a mermaid and a Muse,

a figment of your own imagination,

the years elapsing like a tedious cruise?

Your settled life is like this summer glow;

dark clouds foreshadow the approaching snow.

She  Sometimes,emerging frommy daily swim

or gazing from the dock these quiet nights,

I know my siren soul; and in a dream

I stare astonished at the harbour lights,

hugging my knees and sitting up alone

as ships glide darkly past with a low moan.

He  If our mad race had never left the sea,

had we remained content with mud and rock,

we might have saved ourselves great misery;

though even this evening we might still go back.

Think of the crashing breakers, the dim haze

of a salt sun rising on watery days.

She  My wild spirit unbroken, should I return

to the tide, choosing at last my other life,

reverting to blue water and sea-brine,

or do I continue as a faithful wife?

If faithful is the world for one who clings

to the lost pre-existence of previous things.

He  do you remember the great vow you made

to the one man you chose from other men?

The years have come between, with nothing said,

and now the stranger has appeared again

to claim your former love and make it new.

You ask me what I am; but what are you?

She  I am a troubled woman on the land,

I am a seal upon the open sea,

but it's too late to give my heart and hand

to someone who remains a mystery.

Siren or not, this is my proper place;

go to your ship and leave me here in peace.

The Lady from the Sea

Derek Mahon

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