The Careless Word

A WORD is ringing thro' my brain,
It was not meant to give me pain;
It had no tone to bid it stay,
When other things had past away;
It had no meaning more than all
Which in an idle hour fall:
It was when first the sound I heard
A lightly uttered, careless word.

That word--oh! it doth haunt me now,
In scenes of joy, in scenes of woe;
By night, by day, in sun or shade,
With the half smile that gently played
Reproachfully, and gave the sound
Eternal power thro' life to wound.
There is no voice I ever heard,
So deeply fix'd as that one word.

When in the laughing crowd some tone,
Like those whose joyous sound is gone,
Strikes on my ear, I shrink--for then
The careless word comes back again.
When all alone I sit and gaze
Upon the cheerful home-fire blaze,
Lo! freshly as when first 'twas heard,
Returns that lightly uttered word.

When dreams bring back the days of old;
With all that wishes could not hold;
And from my feverish couch I start
To press a shadow to my heart--
Amid its beating echoes, clear
That little word I seem to hear:
In vain I say, while it is heard,
Why weep?--'twas but a foolish word.

It comes--and with it come the tears,
The hopes, the joys of former years;
Forgotten smiles, forgotten looks,
Thick as dead leaves on autumn brooks,
And all as joyless, though they were
The brightest things life's spring could share.
Oh! would to God I ne'er had heard
That lightly uttered, careless word!

It was the first, the only one
Of those which lips for ever gone
Breathed in their love--which had for me
Rebuke of harshness at my glee:
And if those lips were here to say,
'Beloved, let it pass away,'
Ah! then, perchance--but I have heard
The last dear tone--the careless word!

Oh! ye who, meeting, sigh to part,
Whose words are treasures to some heart,
Deal gently, ere the dark days come,
When earth hath but for one a home;
Lest, musing o'er the past, like me,
They feel their hearts wrung bitterly,
And, heeding not what else they heard,
Dwell weeping on a careless word.

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Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton was an English feminist, social reformer, and author of the early and mid-nineteenth century. more…

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"The Careless Word" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 25 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/4777/the-careless-word>.

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