John Reed's Thoughts

THERE’S a mist on the meadow below ; the herring-frogs chirp and cry ;
It’s chill when the sun is down, and the sod is not yet dry:
The world is a lonely place, it seems, and I don’t know why.
I see, as I lean on the fence, how wearily trudges Dan
With the feel of the spring in his bones, like a weak and elderly man :
I’ve had it a many a time, but we must work when we can.
But day after day to toil, and ever from sun to sun,
Though up to the season’s front and nothing be left undone,
Is ending at twelve like a clock, and beginning again at one.
The frogs make a sorrowful noise, and yet it’s the time they mate ;
There ’s something comes with the spring, a lightness or else a weight ;
There’s something comes with the spring, and it seems to me it ’s fate.
It’s the hankering after a life that you never have learned to know ;
It’s the discontent with a life that is always thus and so;
It’s the wondering what we are, and where we are going to go.
My life is lucky enough, I fancy, to most men’s eyes,
For the more a family grows, the oftener some one dies,
And it’s now run on so long, it could n’t be otherwise.
And Sister Jane and myself, we have learned to claim and yield ;
She rules in the house at will, and I in the barn and field,
So, nigh upon thirty years! — as if written and signed and sealed.
I could n’t change if I would ; I ’ve lost the how and the when ;
One day my time will be up, and Jane be the mistress then,
For single women are tough and live down the single men.
She kept me so to herself, she was always the stronger hand,
And my lot showed well enough, when I looked around in the land ;
But I’m tired and sore at heart, and I don’t quite understand.
I wonder how it had been if I ’d taken what others need,
The plague, they say, of a wife, the care of a younger breed ?
If Edith Pleasanton now were near me as Edith Reed?
Suppose that a son well grown were then in the place of Dan,
And I felt myself in him, as I was when my work began ?
I should feel no older, sure, and certainly more a man !
A daughter, besides, in the house; nay, let there be two or three!
We never can overdo the luck that can never be,
And what has come to the most might also have come to me.
I’ve thought, when a neighbor’s wife or his child was carried away,
That to have no loss was a gain ; but now, — I can hardly say ;
He seems to possess them still, under the ridges of clay.
And share and share in a life is, somehow, a different thing
From property held by deed, and the riches that oft take wing;
I feel so close in the breast! — I think it must be the spring.
I’m drying up like a brook when the woods have been cleared around;
You ’re sure it must always run, you are used to the sight and sound,
But it shrinks till there’s only left a stony rut in the ground.
There’s nothing to do but take the days as they come and go,
And not to worry with thoughts that nobody likes to show,
For people so seldom talk of the things they want to know.
There’s times when the way is plain, and everything nearly right,
And then, of a sudden, you stand like a man with a clouded sight :
A bush seems often a beast, in the dusk of the falling night.
I must move ; my joints are stiff; the weather is breeding rain,
And Dan is hurrying on with his plough-team up the lane.
I ’ll go to the village-store ; I ’d rather not talk with Jane.
Bayard Taylor.