With all that poetic charm of which Whittier was absolute master, he pictures to us a midsummer day's casual meeting between Maud Muller, a simple country lass, and the Judge, refined, dignified, and born to the purple. The Judge tarries a moment by Maud's hay field to quaff a cup of spring water. Perchance he lingers a little longer than necessary; at any rate, as they separate each becomes conscious of a pitiful longing that has lodged in their hearts. The years roll on; Maud marries a man unlearned and poor. The Judge weds a woman of his own caste, who lives for fashion, while he lives for power, and still, in the heart of both the Judge and the country lass there lingers that aching void, that pitiful yearning that will never realize satisfaction, and many a time and oft into the mind of each comes this thought, "And of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been.'"
Moving Picture World synopsis