I WATCH-D her as she stoop-d to pluck
A wild flower in her hair to twine;
And wish-d that it had been my luck
To call her mine;

Anon I heard her rate with mad,
Mad words her babe within its cot,
And felt particularly glad
That it had not.

I knew (such subtle brains have men!)
That she was uttering what she shouldn-t;
And thought that I would chide, and then
I thought I would n-t.

Few could have gaz-d upon that face,
Those pouting coral lips, and chided:
A Rhadamanthus, in my place,
Had done as I did.

For wrath with which our bosoms glow
Is chain-d there oft by Beauty-s spell;
And, more than that, I did not know
The widow well.

So the harsh phrase pass-d unreprov-d:
Still mute-(O brothers, was it sin?)-
I drank, unutterably mov-d,
Her beauty in.

And to myself I murmur-d low,
As on her upturn-d face and dress
The moonlight fell, -Would she say No,-
By chance, or Yes?�

She stood so calm, so like a ghost,
Betwixt me and that magic moon,
That I already was almost
A finish-d coon.

But when she caught adroitly up
And sooth-d with smiles her little daughter;
And gave it, if I -m right, a sup
Of barley-water;

And, crooning still the strange, sweet lore
Which only mothers- tongues can utter,
Snow-d with deft hand the sugar o-er
Its bread-and-butter;

And kiss-d it clingingly (ah, why
Don-t women do these things in private?)-
I felt that if I lost her, I
Should not survive it.

And from my mouth the words nigh flew,-
The past, the future, I forgat -em,-
-Oh, if you -d kiss me as you do
That thankless atom!�

But this thought came ere yet I spake,
And froze the sentence on my lips:
-They err who marry wives that make
Those little slips.�

It came like some familiar rhyme,
Some copy to my boyhood set;
And that -s perhaps the reason I-m
Unmarried yet.

Would she have own-d how pleas-d she was,
And told her love with widow-s pride?
I never found out that, because
I never tried.

Be kind to babes and beasts and birds,
Hearts may be hard though lips are coral;
And angry words are angry words:
And that -s the moral.