Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
See The Pale Martyr
It was about this time that Rebecca, who had been reading about the Spartan boy,
conceived the idea of some mild form of self-punishment to be applied on occasions
when she was fully convinced in her own mind that it would be salutary. The immediate
cause of the decision was a somewhat sadder accident than was common, even in a career
prolific in such things.
Clad in her best, Rebecca had gone to take tea with the Cobbs; but while crossing the
bridge she was suddenly overcome by the beauty of the river and leaned over the newly
painted rail to feast her eyes on the dashing torrent of the fall. Resting her elbows on the
topmost board, and inclining her little figure forward in delicious ease, she stood there
The river above the dam was a glassy lake with all the loveliness of blue heaven and
green shore reflected in its surface; the fall was a swirling wonder of water, ever pouring
itself over and over inexhaustibly in luminous golden gushes that lost themselves in
snowy depths of foam. Sparkling in the sunshine, gleaming under the summer moon, cold
and gray beneath a November sky, trickling over the dam in some burning July drought,
swollen with turbulent power in some April freshet, how many young eyes gazed into the
mystery and majesty of the falls along that river, and how many young hearts dreamed
out their futures leaning over the bridge rail, seeing "the vision splendid" reflected there
and often, too, watching it fade into "the light of common day."
Rebecca never went across the bridge without bending over the rail to wonder and to
ponder, and at this special moment she was putting the finishing touches on a poem.
Two maidens by a river strayed
Down in the state of Maine.
The one was called Rebecca,
The other Emma Jane.
"I would my life were like the stream,"
Said her named Emma Jane,
"So quiet and so very smooth,
So free from every pain."
"I'd rather be a little drop
In the great rushing fall!
I would not choose the glassy lake,
'T would not suit me at all!"
(It was the darker maiden spoke
The words I just have stated,
The maidens twain were simply friends
And not at all related.)