LOVE AND PHYSIC
by: Bret Harte (1836-1902)
man was Dr. Digg;
- Misfortunes well he bore;
- He never lost his patience till
- He had no patients more;
- And though his practice once was large,
- It did not swell his gains;
- The pains he labored for were but
- The labor for his pains.
- The "art is long," his cash got short,
- And well might Galen dread it,
- For who will trust a name unknown
- When merit gets no credit?
- To marry seemed the only way
- To ease his mind of trouble;
- Misfortunes never singly come,
- And misery made him double.
- He had a patient, rich and fair,
- That hearts by scores was breaking,
- And as he once had felt her wrist,
- He thought her hand of taking;
- But what the law makes strangers do,
- Did strike his comprehension;
- Who live in these United States,
- Do first declare intention.
- And so he called. His beating heart
- With anxious fears was swelling,
- And half in habit took her hand
- And on her tongue was dwelling;
- But thrice tho' he essayed to speak,
- He stopp'd, and stuck, and blundered;
- For say, what mortal could be cool
- Whose pulse was most a hundred?
- "Madam," at last he faltered out,--
- His love had grown courageous,--
- "I have discerned a new complaint,
- I hope to prove contagious;
- And when the symptoms I relate,
- And show its diagnosis,
- Ah, let me hope from those dear lips,
- Some favorable prognosis.
- "This done," he cries, "let's tie those ties
- Which none but death can sever;
- Since 'like cures like,' I do infer
- That love cures love, forever."
- He paused -- she blushed; however strange
- It seems on first perusal,
- Altho' there was no promise made,
- She gave him a refusal.
- Says she, "If well I understand
- The sentiments you're saying,
- You do propose to take a hand--
- A game that two are playing--
- At whist; one's partner ought to be
- As silent as a mummy,
- But in the game of love, I think,
- I shall not take a dummy.
- "I cannot marry one who lives
- By other folks' distresses;
- The man I marry, I must love,
- Nor fear his fond caresses;
- For who, whatever be their sex,
- However strange the case is,
- Would like to have a doctor's bill
- Stuck up into their faces?"
- Perhaps you think, 'twixt love and rage,
- He took some deadly potion,
- Or with his lancet breathed a vein
- To ease his pulse's motion.
- To guess the vent of his despair,
- The wisest one might miss it;
- He reached his office -- then and there
- He charged her for the visit!
POEMS BY BRET HARTE
"Love and Physic" is reprinted
from The Writings of Bret Harte, Vol. XX. Ed. Charles
Meeker Kozlay. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1914. This poem was
originally published in Golden Era, April 12, 1857.