Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
The Milkmaid
Jeffreys Taylor (1792–1853)
A MILKMAID, who poised a full pail on her head,
Thus mused on her prospects in life, it is said:
“Let me see,—I should think that this milk will procure
One hundred good eggs, or fourscore, to be sure.
“Well then,—stop a bit,—it must not be forgotten,        5
Some of these may be broken, and some may be rotten;
But if twenty for accident should be detached,
It will leave me just sixty sound eggs to be hatched.
“Well, sixty sound eggs.—no, sound chickens, I mean:
Of these some may die,—we ’ll suppose seventeen,        10
Seventeen! not so many—say ten at the most,
Which will leave fifty chickens to boil or to roast.
“But then there ’s their barley: how much will they need?
Why, they take but one grain at a time when they feed,—
So that ’s a mere trifle; now then, let us see,        15
At a fair market price how much money there ’ll be.
“Six shillings a pair—five—four—three-and-six.
To prevent all mistakes, that low price I will fix;
Now what will that make? fifty chickens, I said,—
Fifty times three-and-sixpence—I ’ll ask Brother Ned.        20
“O, but stop,—three-and-sixpence a pair I must sell ’em;
Well, a pair is a couple,—now then let us tell ’em;
A couple in fifty will go (my poor brain!)
Why, just a score times and five pair will remain.
“Twenty-five pair of fowls—now how tiresome it is        25
That I can’t reckon up so much money as this!
Well, there ’s no use in trying, so let ’s give a guess,—
I ’ll say twenty pounds, and it can’t be no less.
“Twenty pounds, I am certain, will buy me a cow,
Thirty geese and two turkeys,—eight pigs and a sow;        30
Now if these turn out well, at the end of a year,
I shall fill both my pockets with guineas, ’t is clear.”
Forgetting her burden, when this she had said,
The maid superciliously tossed up her head;
When, alas for her prospects! her milk-pail descended,        35
And so all her schemes for the future were ended.
This moral, I think, may be safely attached,—
“Reckon not on your chickens before they are hatched.”

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