by: Bret Harte (1836-1902)

      CLEVER 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!

"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.




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