(4 November 1872 - 1934 / Scotia, Lake Erie, Ontario)

The Quarrel

When Mary found fault with me that day the trouble was well begun.
No man likes being found fault with, no man really thinks it fun
To have a wisp of a woman, in a most obnoxious way,
Allude to his temper as beastly, and remark that day by day
He proves himself so careless, so lacking in love, so mean,
Then add, with an air convincing, she wishes she'd never seen
A person who thinks so little of breaking a woman's heart,
And since he is-well, what he is-'tis better that they should part.

Now, no man enjoys this performance-he has his faults, well and good,
He doesn't want to hear them named-this ought to be understood.

Mary was aggravating, and all because I'd forgot
To bring some flowers I'd promised-as though it mattered a lot;
But that's the way with a woman, your big sins she may forgive,
But little things, not worth mention, you hear of as long as you live.

A few sweet peas and carnations to start a tempest, forsooth!
For Mary got in a temper-I did the same, of a truth.
I said things that weren't gentle; she pretended not to mind-
But answered back in a manner that left me away behind.

It ended up in our saying good-bye for the rest of our days,
Both vowing we'd be happier going our different ways.
And I strode out in the garden where the trees were pink and white,
Where bobolinks scolded sparrows, and robins, wild with delight,
Chirped and called and fluttered in the blossoming trees above,
Where Nature was busy teaching her lessons of joy and love.

I made a bed of the soft, warm earth, stretched me out in the sun.
Vext and weary, I fell asleep, and slept till the day was done.
The voice of my brother waked me, crying, 'Quickly arise and come;
Bear up like a man, Heaven help you! Death has suddenly entered your home!'

'Twas Mary, my own sweet Mary! The eyelashes slept on her cheek,
The lips had a half-smile on them, as though they were going to speak
Some of the old-time tender words, witty rejoinder or jest,
Or ask the question they'd asked so oft, 'Jim, who do you love the best?'

But the small hands gave no pressure when I took them in my own,
And bending down to kiss her face, I found it cold as a stone.
And it came to me I could never-never, since Mary was dead-
Say, 'Dear one, I didn't mean them, the bitter words that I said.'
Never see the tears go from her sweet, dark eyes, and
the brightness take their place,
Never watch the joy and gladness come back to my darling's face.

Not a fault could I remember-she'd been perfect all her days,
With her sweetness and her laughter, her tender womanly ways.
Dead-dead in her fresh young beauty-oh, I had an anguished heart
At thought of the quarrel ending in our agreeing to part!

When two people love each other, I'll tell you the wisest way,
'Tis to think before speaking harshly, for there surely will come a day
When one will sleep on so soundly that he or she will not wake,
The other sit in the stillness and cry with a great heart-break.
It is to ears all unheeding our tenderest words are said-
The love that the living long for we waste it upon the dead.
We say this life is so dreary, talk much of heaven, I know,
But if we were good to each other we'd have our heaven below.
'Mary,' I whispered, 'my Mary, no flowers to you I gave,
But I'll heap them on your coffin and plant them over your grave.'

A bird sang sweetly and shrilly in the blossoms over-head,
And I awoke, awoke, awoke-I'd dreamed that Mary was dead!
I woke in the golden sunshine, the birds were singing aloud.
There was no still form beside me, nor any coffin or shroud,
But just a slip of a woman with her brown eyes full of tears-
Oh, that blessed, blessed waking I've remembered through all the years.
I told the story to Mary, who hasn't let me forget
That dream in the blossoming orchard-I hear of it often yet.
If I neglect to bring flowers, it's: 'Oh, you're going to save
Your roses to heap on my coffin, your pansies to plant on my grave?'

And if I lose my temper-a common weakness of men-
The sweetest voice in the world says: 'You'll have to get dreaming again.'

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