James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

Man's Devotion


A lover said, 'O Maiden, love me well,
For I must go away:
And should ANOTHER ever come to tell
Of love--What WILL you say?'

And she let fall a royal robe of hair
That folded on his arm
And made a golden pillow for her there;
Her face--as bright a charm

As ever setting held in kingly crown--
Made answer with a look,
And reading it, the lover bended down,
And, trusting, 'kissed the book.'

He took a fond farewell and went away.
And slow the time went by--
So weary--dreary was it, day by day
To love, and wait, and sigh.

She kissed his pictured face sometimes, and said:
'O Lips, so cold and dumb,
I would that you would tell me, if not dead,
Why, why do you not come?'

The picture, smiling, stared her in the face
Unmoved--e'en with the touch
Of tear-drops--HERS--bejeweling the case--
'Twas plain--she loved him much.

And, thus she grew to think of him as gay
And joyous all the while,
And SHE was sorrowing--'Ah, welladay!'
But pictures ALWAYS smile!

And years--dull years--in dull monotony
As ever went and came,
Still weaving changes on unceasingly,
And changing, changed her name.

Was she untrue?--She oftentimes was glad
And happy as a wife;
But ONE remembrance oftentimes made sad
Her matrimonial life.--

Though its few years were hardly noted, when
Again her path was strown
With thorns--the roses swept away again,
And she again alone!

And then--alas! ah THEN!--her lover came:
'I come to claim you now--
My Darling, for I know you are the same,
And I have kept my vow

Through these long, long, long years, and now no more
Shall we asundered be!'
She staggered back and, sinking to the floor,
Cried in her agony:

'I have been false!' she moaned, '_I_ am not true--
I am not worthy now,
Nor ever can I be a wife to YOU--
For I have broke my vow!'

And as she kneeled there, sobbing at his feet,
He calmly spoke--no sign
Betrayed his inward agony--'I count you meet
To be a wife of mine!'

And raised her up forgiven, though untrue;
As fond he gazed on her,
She sighed,--'SO HAPPY!' And she never knew
HE was a WIDOWER.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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