THE THREE FRIENDS
(Text of 1818)
Three young maids in friendship met;
Mary, Martha, Margaret.
Margaret was tall and fair,
Martha shorter by a hair;
If the first excell’d in feature,
Th’ other’s grace and ease were greater;
Mary, though to rival loth,
In their best gifts equall’d both.
They a due proportion kept;
Martha mourn’d if Margaret wept;
Margaret joy’d when any good
She of Martha understood;
And in sympathy for either
Mary was outdone by neither.
Thus far, for a happy space,
All three ran an even race,
A most constant friendship proving,
Equally belov’d and loving;
All their wishes, joys, the same;
Sisters only not in name.
Fortune upon each one smil’d,
As upon a fav’rite child;
Well to do and well to see
Were the parents of all three;
Till on Martha’s father crosses
Brought a flood of worldly losses,
And his fortunes rich and great
Chang’d at once to low estate;
Under which o’erwhelming blow
Martha’s mother was laid low;
She a hapless orphan left,
Of maternal care bereft,
Trouble following trouble fast,
Lay in a sick bed at last.
In the depth of her affliction
Martha now receiv’d conviction,
That a true and faithful friend
Can the surest comfort lend.
Night and day, with friendship tried,
Ever constant by her side
Was her gentle Mary found,
With a love that knew no bound;
And the solace she imparted
Sav’d her dying’ broken-hearted.
In this scene of earthly things
Not one good unmixed springs.
That which had to Martha proved
A sweet consolation, moved
Different feelings of regret
In the mind of Margaret.
She, whose love was not less dear,
Nor affection less sincere
To her friend, was, by occasion
Of more distant habitation,
Fewer visits forc’d to pay her,
When no other cause did stay her;
And her Mary living nearer,
Margaret began to fear her,
Lest her visits day by day
Martha’s heart should steal away.
That whole heart she ill could spare her,
Where till now she’d been a sharer.
From this cause with grief she pined,
Till at length her health declined.
All her chearful spirits flew,
Fast as Martha gather’d new;
And her sickness waxed sore,
Just when Martha felt no more.
Mary, who had quick suspicion
Of her alter’d friend’s condition,
Seeing Martha’s convalescence
Less demanded now her presence,
With a goodness, built on reason,
Chang’d her measures with the season;
Turn’d her steps from Martha’s door,
Went where she was wanted more;
All her care and thoughts were set
Now to tend on Margaret.
Mary living ’twixt the two,
From her home could oft’ner go,
Either of her friends to see,
Than they could together be.