Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JOHNNY RIGHT, by ALICE CARY



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JOHNNY RIGHT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Johnny right, his hand was brown
Last Line: Her own self had evoked her fate.
Subject(s): Man-woman Relationships; Human Behavior; Optimism; Pessimism; Fate; Alcoholism & Alcoholics


JOHNNY RIGHT, his hand was brown,
And so was his honest, open face,
For the sunshine kissed him up and down,
But Johnny counted all for grace;
And when he looked in the glass at night
He said that brown was as good as white!

A little farm our Johnny owned,
Some pasture-fields, both green and good,
A bit of pleasant garden ground,
A meadow, and a strip of wood.
"Enough for any man," said John,
"To earn his livelihood upon!"

Two oxen, speckled red and white,
And a cow that gave him a pail of milk,
He combed and curried morn and night
Until their coats were as soft as silk.
"Cattle on all the hills," said he,
"Could give no more of joy to me."

He never thought the world was wrong
Because rough weather chanced a day;
"The night is always hedged along
With daybreak roses, he would say;
He did not ask for manna, but said,
"Give me but strength -- I will get the bread!"

Kindly he took for good and all
Whatever fortune chanced to bring,
And he never wished that spring were fall,
And he never wished that fall were spring;
But set the plough with a joy akin
To the joy of putting the sickle in.

He never stopped to sigh "Oho!"
Because of the ground he needs must till,
For he knew right well that a man must sow
Before he can reap, and he sowed with a will;
And still as he went to his rye-straw bed,
"Work brings the sweetest of rest," he said.

Johnny's house was little and low,
And his fare was hard; and that was why
He used to say, with his cheeks aglow,
That he must keep his heart up high:
Aye, keep it high, and keep it light!
He used to say -- wise Johnny Right!

He never fancied one was two;
But according to his strength he planned,
And oft to his Meggy would say he knew
That gold was gold, and sand was sand;
And that each was good and best in its place,
For he counted everything for grace.

Now Meggy Right was Meggy Wrong,
For things with her went all awry;
She always found the day too long
Or the day too short, and would mope and sigh;
For, somehow, the time and place that were,
Were never the time and place for her!

"O Johnny, Johnny!" she used to say,
If she saw a cloud in the sky at morn,
"There will be a hurricane to-day;"
Or, "The rain will come and drench the corn!"
And Johnny would answer with a smile,
"Wait, dear Meggy, wait for a while!"

And often before an ear was lost,
Or a single hope of the harvest gone,
She would cry, "Suppose there should fall a frost,
What should we do then, John, O John!"
And Johnny would answer, rubbing his thumbs,
"Wait, dear Meggy, wait till it comes!"

But when she saw the first gray hair,
Her hands together she wrung and wrung,
And cried, in her wicked and weak despair,
"Ah, for the day when we both were young!"
And Johnny answered, kissing her brow,
"Then was then, Meg -- now is now!"

And when he spectacles put on,
And read at ease the paper through,
She whimpered, "Oh, hard-hearted John,
It is n't the way you used to do!"
And Johnny, wiser than wiser men,
Said, "Now is now, Meg -- then was then!"

So night and day, with this and that,
She gave a bitter to all the bliss,
Now for Johnny to give her a hat,
And now for Johnny to give her a kiss,
Till, patience failing, he cried, "Peg, Peg!
You're enough to turn a man's head, Meg!"

Oh, then she fell into despair --
No coaxing could her temper mend;
For her part now she didn't care
How soon her sad life had an end.
And Johnny, sneering, made reply,
"Well, Meg, don't die before you die!"

Then foolish Meg began to scold,
And call her Johnny ugly names;
She wished the little farm was sold,
And that she had no household claims,
So that she might go and starve or beg,
And Johnny answered, "O Meg, Meg!"

Ah, yes, she did -- she didn't care!
That were a living to prefer;
What had she left to save despair?
A man that didn't care for her!
Indeed, in truth she'd rather go!
"Don't, Meg," says Johnny, "don't say so!"

She left his stockings all undarned,
She set his supper for him cold;
And every day she said she yearned
To have the hateful homestead sold.
She couldn't live, and wouldn't try!
John only answered with a sigh.

Passing the tavern one cold night,
Says Johnny, "I've a mind to stop,
It looks so cheery and so bright
Within, and take a little drop,
And then I'll go straight home to Meg."
There was the serpent in the egg.

He stopped, alas, alas for John.
That careless step foredoomed his fall.
Next year the little farm was gone, --
Corn fields and cattle, house and all;
And Meggy learned too late, too late,
Her own self had evoked her fate.





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