I said, if I might go back again
To the very hour and place of my birth;
Might have my life whatever I chose,
And live it in any part of the earth;
But perfect sunshine into my sky,
Banish the shadow of sorrow and doubt;
Have all my happiness multiplied,
And all my suffering stricken out;
If I could have known in the years now gone,
The best that a woman comes to know;
Could have had whatever will make her blest,
Or whatever she thinks will make her so;
Have found the highest and purest bliss
That the bridal-wreath and ring inclose;
And gained the one out of all the world,
That my heart as well as my reason chose;
By my children, lying asleep in their beds
And could count in my prayers, for a rosary,
The shining row of their golden heads;
Yea! I said, if a miracle such as this
Could be wrought for me, at my bidding, still
I would choose to have my past as it is,
And to let my future come as it will!
I would not make the path I have trod
More pleasant or even, more straight or wide;
Nor change my course the breadth of a hair,
This way or that way, to either side.
My past is mine, and I take it all;
Its weakness--its folly, if you please;
Nay, even my sins, if you come to that,
May have been my helps, not hindrances!
If I saved my body from the flames
Because that once I had burned my hand;
Or kept myself from a greater sin
By doing a less--you will understand;
It was better I suffered a little pain,
Better I sinned for a little time,
If a smarting warned me back from death,
And the sting of sin withheld from crime.
Who knows its strength, by trial, will know
What strength must be set against a sin;
And how temptation is overcome
He has learned, who has felt its power within!
And who knows how a life at the last may show?
Why, look at the moon from where we stand!
Opaque, uneven, you say; yet it shines,
A luminous sphere, complete and grand!
So let my past stand, just as it stands,
And let me now, as I may, grow old;
I am what I am, and my life for me
Is the best--or it had not been, I hold.
Phoebe Cary (1868)
Cary was born September 4th 1823 in a farmhouse eight miles north of Cincinnati. The basis of her education was the Bible, a few sentimental novels, and the Trumpet, a Universalist publication. By 1835, tuberculosis had claimed her mother and two sisters.
Despite the demands of farm work and a stepmother's disapproval, Phoebe began publishing poetry along with her sister Alice in 1838.
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