Among the legends sung or said
Along our rocky shore,
The Wishing Bridge of Marblehead
May well be sung once more.
An hundred years ago (so ran
The old-time story) all
Good wishes said above its span
Would, soon or late, befall.
If pure and earnest, never failed
The prayers of man or maid
For him who on the deep sea sailed,
For her at home who stayed.
Once thither came two girls from school,
And wished in childish glee
And one would be a queen and rule,
And one the world would see.
Time passed; with change of hopes and fears,
And in the self-same place,
Two women, gray with middle years,
Stood, wondering, face to face.
With wakened memories, as they met,
They queried what had been
"A poor man's wife am I, and yet,"
Said one, "I am a queen.
"My realm a little homestead is,
Where, lacking crown and throne,
I rule by loving services
And patient toil alone."
The other said: "The great world lies
Beyond me as it lay;
O'er love's and duty's boundaries
My feet may never stray.
"I see but common sights of home,
Its common sounds I hear,
My widowed mother's sick-bed room
Sufficeth for my sphere.
"I read to her some pleasant page
Of travel far and wide,
And in a dreamy pilgrimage
We wander side by side.
"And when, at last, she falls asleep,
My book becomes to me
A magic glass: my watch I keep,
But all the world I see.
"A farm-wife queen your place you fill,
While fancy's privilege
Is mine to walk the earth at will,
Thanks to the Wishing Bridge."
"Nay, leave the legend for the truth,"
The other cried, "and say
God gives the wishes of our youth,
But in His own best way!"
-By John Greenleaf Whittier, 1882