Saturday, December 17, 2011

John Greenleaf Whittier

God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

From his 1856 poem, "Maud Muller."  

Maud Muller was a poor country girl who was raking hay on a hot summer day when a local judge saw her as he rode by on horseback.  He stopped to ask for a cup of spring-water, and they chatted for a few minutes.  The judge was smitten by the beautiful young woman, but as he rode away, "he thought of his sisters, proud and cold/And his mother, vain of her rank of gold."  So he closed his heart and "wedded a wife of richest dower/Who lived for fashion, as he for power," while Maud married a local bumpkin, bore and reared many children, and worked like a dog.  

As the years passed, both Maud and the judge thought of what might have been . . . but wasn't.

Whittier was born on this date in 1807.

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