Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JANE REED, by BAYARD TAYLOR



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JANE REED, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If I could forget,' she said, 'forget, and begin again'
Last Line: "and she sadly said, at last, ""but what will become of john?"
Alternate Author Name(s): Taylor, James Bayard
Subject(s): Death; Hearts; Life; Dead, The


"IF I could forget," she said, "forget, and begin again!
We see so dull at the time, and, looking back, so plain:
There's a quiet that's worse, I think, than many a spoken strife,
And it's wrong that one mistake should change the whole of a life.

"There's John, forever the same, so steady, sober, and mild;
He never storms as a man who never cried as a child:
Perhaps my ways are harsh, but if he would seem to care,
There'd be fewer swallowed words and a lighter load to bear.

"Here, Cherry! -- she's found me out, the calf I raised in the spring,
And a likely heifer she's grown, the foolish, soft-eyed thing!
Just the even color I like, without a dapple or speck, --
O Cherry, bend down your head, and let me cry on your neck!

"The poor dumb beast she is, she never can know nor tell,
And it seems to do me good, the very shame of the spell:
So old a woman and hard, and Joel so old a man. --
But the thoughts of the old go on as the thoughts of the young began!

"It's guessing that wastes the heart, far worse than the surest fate:
If I knew he had thought of me, I could quietly work and wait;
And then when either, at last, on a bed of death should lie,
Why, one might speak the truth, and the other hear and die!"

She leaned on the heifer's neck; the dry leaves fell from the boughs,
And over the sweet late grass of the meadow strayed the cows:
The golden dodder meshed the cardinal-flower by the rill;
There was autumn haze in the air, and sunlight low on the hill.

"I've somehow missed my time," she said to herself and sighed:
"What girls are free to hope, a steady woman must hide,
But the need outstays the chance: it makes me cry and laugh,
To think that the only thing I can talk to now is a calf!"

A step came down from the hill: she did not turn or rise;
There was something in her heart that saw without the eyes.
She heard the foot delay, as doubting to stay or go:
"Is the heifer for sale?" he said. She sternly answered, "No!"

She lifted her head as she spoke: their eyes a moment met,
And her heart repeated the words, "If I could only forget!"
He turned a little away, but her lowered eyes could see
His hand, as it picked the bark from the trunk of a hickory-tree.

"Why can't we be friendly, Jane?" his words came, strange and slow;
"You seem to bear me a grudge, so long, and so long ago!
You were gay and free with the rest, but always so shy of me,
That, before my freedom came, I saw that it could n't be."

"Joel!" was all she cried, as their glances met again,
And a sudden rose effaced her pallor of age and pain.
He picked at the hickory bark: "It's a curious thing to say;
But I'm lonely since Phoebe died and the girls are married away.

"That's why these thoughts come back: I'm a little too old for pride,
And I never could understand how love should be all one side:
'T would answer itself, I thought, and time would show me how;
But it did n't come so, then, and it does n't seem so, now!"

"Joel, it came so, then!" -- and her voice was thick with tears:
"A hope for a single day, and a bitter shame for years!"
He snapped the ribbon of bark; he turned from the hickory-tree:
"Jane, look me once in the face, and say that you thought of me!"

She looked, and feebly laughed: "It's a comfort to know the truth,
Though the chance was thrown away in the blind mistake of youth."
"And a greater comfort, Jane," he said, with a tender smile,
"To find the chance you have lost, and keep it a little while."

She rose as he spake the words: the petted heifer thrust
Her muzzle between the twain, with an animal's strange mistrust:
But over the creature's neck he drew her to his breast:
"A horse is never so old but it pulls with another best!"

"It's enough to know," she said; "to remember, not forget!"
"Nay, nay: for the rest of life we'll pay each other's debt!"
She had no will to resist, so kindly was she drawn,
And she sadly said, at last, "But what will become of John?"





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