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The Weight of a Word

by Kate Slaughter McKinney

Have you ever thought of the weight of a word
That falls in the heart like the song of a bird,
That gladdens the springtime of memory and youth
And garlands with cedar the banner of Truth,
That moistens the harvesting spot of the brain
Like dew-drops that fall on the meadow of grain
Or that shrivels the germ and destroys the fruit
And lies like a worm at the lifeless root?

I saw a farmer at break of day
Hoeing his corn in a careful way;
An enemy came with a drouth in his eye,
Discouraged the worker and hurried by.
The keen-edged blade of the faithful hoe
Dulled on the earth in the long corn row;
The weeds sprung up and their feathers tossed
Over the field and the crop was—lost.

A sailor launched on an angry bay
When the heavens entombed the face of day
The wind arose like a beast in pain,
And shook on the billows his yellow name,
The storm beat down as if cursed the cloud,
And the waves held up a dripping shroud—
But, hark! o’er the waters that wildly raved
Came a word of cheer and he was—saved.

A poet passed with a song of God
Hid in his heart like a gem in a clod.
His lips were framed to pronounce the thought,
And the music of rhythm its magic wrought;
Feeble at first was the happy trill,
Low was the echo that answered the hill,
But a jealous friend spoke near his side,
And on his lips the sweet song—died.

A woman paused where a chandelier
Threw in the darkness its poisoned spear;
Weary and footsore from journeying long,
She had strayed unawares from the right to the wrong.
Angels were beck’ning her back from the den,
Hell and its demons were beck’ning her in;
The tone of an urchin, like one who forgives,
Drew her back and in heaven that sweet word—lives.

Words! Words! They are little, yet mighty and brave;
They rescue a nation, an empire save;
They close up the gaps in a fresh bleeding heart
That sickness and sorrow have severed apart,
They fall on the path, like a ray of the sun,
Where the shadows of death lay so heavy upon;
They lighten the earth over our blessed dead,
A word that will comfort, oh! leave not unsaid.