James Thomas Fields
Patient Mercy Jones - Poem by James Thomas Fields
Let us venerate the bones
Of patient Mercy Jones,
Who lies underneath these stones.
This is her story as once told to me
By him who still loved her, as all men might see—
Darius, her husband, his age seventy years.
A man of few words, but, for her, many tears.
Darius and Mercy were born in Vermont,
Both children were christened at baptismal font
In the very same place, on the very same day
(Not much acquainted just then, I dare say).
The minister sprinkled the babies, and said,
Who knows but this couple some time may be wed,
And I be the parson to join them together,
For weal or for woe, through all sorts of weather.
Well, they were married, and happier folk
Never put both their heads in the same loving yoke.
They were poor, they worked hard, but nothing could try
The patience of Mercy, or cloud her bright eye.
She was clothed with Content as a beautiful robe;
She had griefs - who has not in this changeable globe? -
But at such times she seemed like the sister of Job.
She was patient with dogmas, where light never dawns,
She was patient with people who trod on her lawns;
She was patient with folks who said blue skies were gray,
And dentists and oxen that pulled the wrong way;
She was patient with phrases no husband should utter,
She was patient with cream that declined to be butter;
She was patient with buyers with nothing to pay,
She was patient with talkers with nothing to say;
She was patient with millers whose trade was to cozen,
And grocers who counted out ten to the dozen;
She was patient with bunglers and fault-finding churls,
And tall, awkward lads who came courting her girls;
She was patient with crockery no art could mend,
And chimneys that smoked every day the wrong end;
She was patient with reapers who never would sow,
And long-winded callers who never would go;
She was patient with relatives when, uninvited,
They came, and devoured, then complained they were slighted;
She was patient with crows that got into the corn,
And other dark deeds out of wantonness born;
She was patient with lightning that burned up the hay,
She was patient with poultry unwilling to lay;
She was patient with rogues who drank cider too strong,
She was patient with sermons that lasted too long;
She was patient with boots that tracked up her clean floors,
She was patient with peddlers and other smooth bores;
She was patient with children who disobeyed rules,
And, to crown all the rest, she was patient with fools.
The neighboring husbands all envied the lot
Of Darius, and wickedly got up a plot
To bring o’er his sunshine an unpleasant spot.
“You think your wife’s temper is proof against fate,
But we know of something her smiles will abate.
When she gets out of wood, and for more is inclined,
Just send home the crookedest lot you can find;
Let us pick it out, let us go and choose it,
And we’ll bet you a farm, when she comes for to use it,
Her temper will crack like Nathan Dow’s cornet,
And she’ll be as mad as an elderly hornet.”
Darius was piqued, and he said, with a
“I’ll pay for the wood, if you’ll send it hum;
But depend on it, neighbors, no danger will come.”
Home came the gnarled roots, and a crookeder load
Never entered the gate of a Christian abode.
A ram’s horn was straighter than any stick in it;
It seemed to be wriggling about every minute;
It would not stand up, and it would not lie down;
It twisted the vision of one-half the town.
To look at such fuel was really a sin,
For the chance was Strabismus would surely set in.
Darius said nothing to Mercy about it:
It was crooked wood—even she could not doubt it:
But never a harsh word escaped her sweet lips,
Any more than if the old snags were smooth chips.
She boiled with them, baked with them, washed with them through
The long winter months, and none ever knew
But the wood was as straight as Mehitable Drew,
Who was straight as a die, or a gun, or an arrow
And who made it her business all male hearts to harrow.
When the pile was burned up, and they needed more wood,
“Sure, now,” mused Darius, “I shall catch it good;
She has kept her remarks all condensed for the Spring,
And my ears, for the trick, now deserve well to sing.
She never did scold me, but now she will pout,
And say with such wood she is nearly worn out.”
But Mercy, unruffled, was calm, like the stream
That reflects back at evening the sun’s perfect beam;
And she looked at Darius, and lovingly smiled,
As she made this request with a temper unriled:
“We are wanting more fuel, I’m sorry to say;
I burn a great deal too much every day,
And I mean to use less than I have in the past;
But get, if you can, dear, a load like the last;
I never had wood that I liked half so well—
Do see who has nice crooked fuel to sell:
There’s nothing that’s better than wood full of knots,
It fays so complete round the kettles and pots,
And washing and cooking are really like play
When the sticks nestle close in so charming a way.'
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