Here is a curious little verse. If you read the entire verse normally, you’d find that the writer has some cynical views on marriage. However, if you read the poem in an alternating fashion (first line, third line, second line and fourth line) for each stanza, then the meaning of the verse becomes the opposite:
That man must lead a happy life
Who’s free from matrimonial chains,
Who is directed by a wife
Is sure to suffer for his pains.
Adam could find no solid peace
When Eve was given for a mate;
Until he saw a woman’s face
Adam was in a happy state.
In all the female race appear
Hypocrisy, deceit, and pride;
Truth, darling of a heart sincere,
In woman never did reside.
What tongue is able to unfold
The failings that in woman dwell;
The worths in woman we behold
Are almost imperceptible.
Confusion take the man, I say,
Who changes from his singleness,
Who will not yield to woman’s sway,
Is sure of earthly blessedness.
This poem was written by Elizabeth Markham and was first published in Oregon Spectacular on June 15, 1848. Markham noted that the regular reading of the poem gives the man’s perspective on marriage while reading it in an alternating way described above provides the woman’s point of view.