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Think Before You Speak or, The Three Wishes

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THE sun withdrew his last pale ray, And clos’d the short and chearless day; Loud blew the wind, and rain and sleet Against the cottage casement beat. The busy housewife trimm’d her fire, And drew the oaken settle nigher, [p6]And welcom’d home her own good man To his clean hearth, his pipe, and can; For Homespun and his bustling wife Were honest folks in humble life, Who liv’d contented with their lot, And lov’d the comforts of their cot. With willing hand and chearful heart, Each of life’s burden bore their part, With patience all its ills withstood, And thankfully receiv’d the good. [p7]Yet, they were not without their failings: They lov’d the harvest-home regalings; On summer evenings on the green At cricket oft was Homespun seen; And sometimes, where the sign ensnares The wearied swain to drown his cares, He lov’d to quaff the foaming ale, And listen to a merry tale. Was there within ten miles a fair— He and his dame were surely there: [p8]For she too lov’d, in trim array, And scarlet cloak, a holiday. Ah! then within her pocket burn’d The long sav’d crown so hardly earn’d, While in the stall temptation spread The printed gown or top-knot red; Nor did her little happy train For drum or whistle sue in vain. Will Rigour’s brow relentless lour, If pleasure steal from toil one hour? [p9]And shall the poor enjoy no ray Of sunshine through their winter’s day? Nor pluck the few wild flowers, that bloom ’Midst poverty’s ungenial gloom? Now, seated in his wicker chair, The swain enjoys his homely fare: His rosy children round him press, Eager to share the fond caress; And as his eyes delighted trace Health and content in each dear face, [p10]He scarce desires a happier lot, His toils unfelt, his cares forgot. When supper ended,—grace was said, The babes were bless’d, and sent to bed, And o’er the fire the parents sat, Engag’d in sober, social chat,— When suddenly a flash of light Reveal’d to their astonish’d sight A little form of lovely mien, Epitome of Beauty’s Queen. [p11]Her zone was clasp’d with jewels rare, And roses bound her auburn hair, White was her robe, and in her hand Graceful she wav’d an ivory wand.

[opp. p10]

Our couple started with surprise, And star’d at her—with all their eyes, Not guessing how or whence she came, What was her nature, or her name. At length their unexpected guest The trembling villagers address’d: [p12]Mortals! she said, in me behold A being of no earthly mold:— But fear me not; I visit earth To benefit your humble worth; For this I’ve left the blissful land, Rul’d by Imperial Oberon’s hand, And on your cottage I intrude To pay a debt of gratitude. For know, my friends, that every year I’m doom’d a mortal form to wear, [p13]And for a time must undergo The sufferings earthly creatures know. Sometimes I wing my way a bird; Sometimes with beasts compelled to herd; A fish I plunge beneath the deep; Or in an insect’s form I creep....