If I Had Known

I might have said a word of cheer
Before I let him go.
His wistful eyes—they haunt me yet!
But how could I foreknow
That slighted chance would be the last
To me in mercy given?
Remorseful yearnings cannot send
That word from earth to heaven.

I might have looked the love I felt;
My brother had sore need
Of that for which, all shy and proud,
He had not speech to plead.
But self is near and self is strong,
And I was blind that day!
He sought within my careless eyes
And went athirst away.

O smile and clasp and word withheld!
O brother-heart, now stilled!
Dear life, forever out of reach,
I might have warmed and filled.
Talents misused and treasures lost
O’er which I mourn in vain,
A waste as barren to my tears,
As desert sands to rain!

Ah, friends! whose eyes today may hold
Converse with living eyes,
Whose touch or tone or smile may thrill
Sad souls with sweet surprise;
Be instant, like your Lord, with love
And constant as His grace,
With dew and light and manna fall—
The night comes on apace.

—Mary Virginia Terhune