The Four Wishes

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“Father!” a youthful hero said, bending his lofty brow
“On the world wide I must go forth—then bless me, bless me, now!
And, ere I shall return oh say, what goal must I have won—
What is the aim, the prize, that most thou wishest for thy son?”

Proudly the father gazed upon his bearing brave and high,
The dauntless spirit flashing forth from his dark brilliant eye:
“My son, thou art the eldest hope of a proud honored name,
Then, let thy guiding star through life—thy chief pursuit—be fame!”

“’Tis well! thou’st chosen, father, well—it is a glorious part!”
And the youth’s glance told the wish chimed well with that brave ardent heart.
“Now, brother, thou’lt have none to share thy sports till I return,—
Say, what shall be the glitt’ring prize that I afar must earn?”

“The world,” said the laughing boy, “on heroes poor looks cold,
If thou art wise as well as brave, return with store of gold.”
“Perchance thou’rt right!” and now he turned to his sister young and fair,
Braiding with skill a glossy tress of his own raven hair.

“’Tis now thy turn, sweet sister mine, breathe thy heart’s wish to me,
If I’ve the power, ’twill be fulfilled, ere I return to thee.”
The maiden blushed and whispring low, “I prize not wealth or pride,
But, brother, to thy future home bring back a gentle bride.”

The merry smile her words had raised fled, as with falt’ring voice,
He asked of her, the best beloved, “Mother, what is thy choice?”
“My son! my son!” she softly said, “hear my wish ere we part—
Return as now thou goest forth, with true and guileless heart!”

  *  *  *  *  *

The years sped on with rapid flight, and to his home once more
The soldier came: he walked not with the buoyant step of yore;
The eagle eye was sunken, dim, the curls of glossy hair
Fell careless round an aching brow, once free from shade of care.

His soiled and shattered crest he laid low at his father’s feet,
And sadly said, “’Tis all I have—is it an off’ring meet?
In battle’s front I madly fought, till dead on dead were heaped,
Want, weariness and pain I’ve borne, and yet no fame I’ve reaped.

“Brother, thou told’st me to return with treasures like a king;
This hacked and dinted sword and shield is all the wealth I bring.
Sister, I wooed a lady bright with eyes like thine, and hair,—
I woke from wild and dazzling dreams to find her false as fair!

“Now, mother, unto thee I turn! say, say, wilt though repine
If I tell thee that those cherished hopes have all proved vain but thine?
Though folly may have swayed awhile this heart since last we met—
Still, mother, at thy feet, I swear, ’tis true and stainless yet!

“No aim has ever ruled it that thou might’st not calmly see—
Nor hope nor thought, dear mother, that I’d shrink to bare to thee!”
“Bless thee, mine own one, for those words! thrice dearer art thou now
Than if thine hands were filled with gems, and laurels twined thy brow!

“And dearer is thy still fond smile, tho’ dimmed its brightness be,
Than that of fairest bride to glad our home with witching glee!”
With all a mother’s yearning love, she strained him to her heart,
And in that fond embrace he felt her’s was “the better part.”

© Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon