Read ’til the end, where you get the payoff: For of all sad words of tongue or pen,/The saddest are these: “It might have been!
John Greenleaf Whittier
Maud Muller, on a summer’s day,
Raked the meadows sweet with hay.
Beneath her torn hat glowed the wealth
Of simple beauty and rustic health.
So, closing his heart, the Judge rode on,
And Maud was left in the field alone.
But the lawyers smiled that afternoon,
When he hummed in court an old love-tune
He wedded a wife of richest dower,
Who lived for fashion, as he for power.
Yet oft, in his marble hearth’s bright glow,
He watched a picture come and go:
And sweet Maud Muller’s hazel eyes
Looked out in their innocent surprise.
A manly form at her side she saw,
And joy was duty and love was law.
Then she took up her burden of life again,
Saying only, “It might have been.”
Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!
God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!“