September 1, 2010

Of all sad words of tongue or pen – which are really the saddest?


FAMOUS LINES OF REGRET:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” 
       American poet John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
       The well-known quote from his poem “Maud Muller” (1856) 
       Whittier’s poem tells the story of a poor farm maid and a wealthy judge who saw each other in passing when they were young. Maud thinks it would be nice to be married to a rich, high society man like the judge. The judge thinks it would be nice to be married to a beautiful farm girl like Maud and lead the pastoral life of a farmer. But they don’t act on their mutual attraction. Later in life, they are both stuck in unfulfilling marriages and think sadly about the life they might have had together. The final lines of the poem note that many people have such regrets, saying:
“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!’ 
Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies 
Deeply buried from human eyes;   
And, in the hereafter, angels may 
Roll the stone from its grave away!” 


THE FORMER FRIEND’S LAMENT:

“Of all cold words of tongue or pen
The worst are these: ‘I knew him when – ’”
       Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
       American writer best known for his humorous poems
       From a poem in his book Prophets in Their Own Country (1927)


THE STUDENT’S LAMENT:

“Of all sad words of lip or pen
The worst are these, ‘I’ve flunked again.’” 
       Parody poem published in the University of Michigan’s Chronicle magazine in 1883


THE GARDENER’S LAMENT:

“The Moral is that gardeners pine
Whene’er no pods adorn the vine.
Of all sad words experience gleans
The saddest are: ‘It might have beans.’
(I did not make this up myself:
'Twas in a book upon my shelf.
It's witty, but I don’t deny
It's rather Whittier than I!)”
       Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873-1904)
       American humorist and poet.
       From his book Grimm Tales Made Gay (1902)


THE GOLFER’S LAMENT:

“Of all sad words that I've ever seen.
The saddest are ‘Three putts to the green.’” 
       Poem published in The American Golfer magazine, 1910


THE WIFE’S LAMENT:

“Of all sad words asked married men
The saddest are these: Where have you been?”
       Reader letter to the editor by Anne Alman of St. Augustine, Florida
       Published in Time Magazine, April 25, 1960

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on my quotations Facebook group.

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy


Creative Commons License
Copyright © 2009-2014 by Subtropic Productions LLC

The Quote/Counterquote blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Any duplicative or remixed use of the original text written for this blog and any exact duplications the specific sets of quotations collected for the posts shown here must include an attribution to QuoteCounterquote.com and, if online, a link to http://www.quotecounterquote.com/

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something we've posted and think we may have violated fair use standards, please let me know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and QuoteCounterquote.com are committed to protecting your privacy. We will not sell your email address, etc. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.