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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Wishing Bridge

AMONG the legends sung or said

Along our rocky shore,

The Wishing Bridge of Marblehead

May well be sung once more.

An hundred years ago (so ran

The old-time story) all

Good wishes said above its span

Would, soon or late, befall.

If pure and earnest, never failed

The prayers of man or maid

For him who on the deep sea sailed,

For her at home who stayed.

Once thither came two girls from school,

And wished in childish glee:

And one would be a queen and rule,

And one the world would see.

Time passed; with change of hopes and fears,

And in the self-same place,

Two women, gray with middle years,

Stood, wondering, face to face.

With wakened memories, as they met,

They queried what had been:

“A poor man’s wife am I, am yet,”

Said one, “I am a queen.

“My realm a little homestead is,

Where, lacking crown and throne,

I rule by loving services

And patient toil alone.”

The other said: “The great world lies

Beyond me as it lay;

O’er love’s and duty’s boundaries

My feet may never stray.

“I see but common sights of home,

Its common sounds I hear,

My widowed mother’s sick-bed room

Sufficeth for my sphere.

“I read to her some pleasant page

Of travel far and wide,

And in a dreamy pilgrimage

We wander side by side.

“And when, at last, she falls asleep,

My book becomes to me

A magic glass: my watch I keep,

But all the world I see.

“A farm-wife queen your place you fill,

While fancy’s privilege

Is mine to walk the earth at will,

Thanks to the Wishing Bridge.”

“Nay, leave the legend for the truth,”

The other cried, “and say

God gives the wishes of our youth,

But in His own best way!”