Pieces People Ask For/A Lesson to Lovers

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For works with similar titles, see Guardian Angel.


She, with a milk-pail on her arm,
Turns aside with her young cheeks glowing,
And sees down the lane, the slow, dull tread
Of the drove of cows that are homeward going.
"Bessie," he said: at the sound she turned,
Her blue eyes full of childish wonder:
"My mother is feeble and lame and old—
I need a wife at my farmhouse yonder.

"My heart is lonely, my home is drear:
I need your presence ever near me.
Will you be my guardian angel, dear,
Queen of my household, to guide and cheer me?"

"It has a pleasant sound," she said,—
"A household queen, a guiding spirit,
To warm your heart, and cheer your home,
And keep the sunshine ever near it:
But I am only a simple child,
So my mother says in her daily chiding;
And what must a guardian angel do
When she first begins her work of guiding?"

"Well, first, dear Bessie, a smiling face
Is dearer far than the rarest beauty;
And my mother, fretful, lame, and old,
Will require a daughter's loving duty.
You will see to her flannels, drops, and tea,
And talk with her of lungs and liver:
Give her your cheerful service, dear—
The Lord he loveth a cheerful giver.

"You will see that my breakfast is piping hot,
And rub the clothes to a snowy whiteness;
Make golden butter and snowy rolls,
And polish things to a shining brightness;
Will darn my stockings, and mend my coats,
And see that the buttons are sewed on tightly :
You will keep things cheerful and neat and sweet,
That home's altar-fires may still burn brightly.

"You will read me at evening the daily news,
The tedious winter nights beguiling,
And never forget that the sweetest face
Is a cheerful face that's always smiling.
In short, you'll arrange in a general way
For a sort of sublunary heaven;
For home, dear Bessie, say what we may,
Is the highest sphere to a woman given."

The lark sang out to the bending sky,
The bobolink piped in the nodding rushes,
And out of the tossing clover-blooms
Came the sweet, clear song of the meadow-thrushes.
And Bessie, listening, paused a while,
Then said, with a sly glance at her neighbor,
"But John—do you mean—that is to say,
What shall I get for all this labor?

"To be nurse, companion, and servant girl,
To make home's altar-fires burn brightly;
To wash and iron and scrub and cook,
And always be cheerful, neat, and sprightly;
To give up liberty, home, and friends,
Nay, even the name of a mother's giving,—
To do all this for one's board and clothes,
Why, the life of an angel isn't worth living!"

And Bessie gayly went her way
Down through the fields of scented clover,
But never again since that summer day
Has she won a glance from her rustic lover.
The lark sings out to the bending sky,
The clouds sail on as white as ever;
The clovers toss in the summer wind,
But Bessie has lost that chance forever.