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Father's Way
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

My father was no pessimist; he loved the things of earth,---
Its cheerfulness and sunshine, its music and its mirth.
He never sighed or moped around whenever things went wrong,---
I warrant me he 'd mocked at fate with some defiant song;
But, being he war n't much on tune, when times looked sort o' blue,
He 'd whistle softly to himself this only tune he knew,---

Now mother, when she heard that tune which father whistled so,
Would say, "There's something wrong to-day with Ephraim, I know;
He never tries to make believe he 's happy that 'ere way
But that I 'm certain as can be there 's somethin' wrong to pay."
And so betimes, quite natural-like, to us observant youth
There seemed suggestion in that tune of deep, pathetic truth.

When Brother William joined the war, a lot of us went down
To see the gallant soldier boys right gayly out of town.
A-comin' home, poor mother cried as if her heart would break,
And all us children, too,---for hers, and not for William's sake!
But father, trudgin' on ahead, his hands behind him so,
Kept whistlin' to himself, so sort of solemn-like and low.

And when my oldest sister, Sue, was married and went West,
Seemed like it took the tuck right out of mother and the rest.
She was the sunlight in our home,---why, father used to say
It would n't seem like home at all if Sue should go away;
But when she went, a-leavin' us all sorrer and all tears,
Poor father whistled lonesome-like---and went to feed the steers.

When crops were bad, and other ills befell our homely lot,
He 'd set of nights and try to act as if he minded not;
And when came death and bore away the one he worshipped so,
How vainly did his lips belie the heart benumbed with woe!
You see the telltale whistle told a mood he 'd not admit,---
He 'd always stopped his whistlin' when he thought we noticed it.

I 'd like to see that stooping form and hoary head again,---
To see the honest, hearty smile that cheered his fellow-men.
Oh, could I kiss the kindly lips that spake no creature wrong,
And share the rapture of the heart that overflowed with song!
Oh, could I hear the little tune he whistled long ago,
When he did battle with the griefs he would not have us know!

 

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