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The Wife

John Charles McNeill

They locked him in a prison cell,
    Murky and mean.
She kissed him there a wife’s farewell
    The bars between.
And when she turned to go, the crowd,
Thinking to see her shamed and bowed,
Saw her pass out as calm and proud
    As any queen.

She passed a kinsman on the street,
    To whose sad eyes
She made reply with smile as sweet
    As April skies.
To one who loved her once and knew
The sorrow of her life, she threw
A gay word, ere his tale was due
    Of sympathies.

She met a playmate, whose red rose
    Had never a thorn,
Whom fortune guided when she chose
    Her marriage morn,
And, smiling, looked her in the eye;
But, seeing the tears of sympathy,
Her smile died, and she passed on by
    In quiet scorn.

They could not know how, when by night
    The city slept,
A sleepless woman, still and white,
    The watches kept;
How her wife-loyal heart had borne
The keen pain of a flowerless thorn,
How hot the tears that smiles and scorn
    Had held unwept.
Online text © 1998-2014 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From Songs, Merry and Sad | Stone & Barringer Co., 1906
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