Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works
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BEGGARS

          SHE had a tall man's height or more;
          Her face from summer's noontide heat
          No bonnet shaded, but she wore
          A mantle, to her very feet
          Descending with a graceful flow,
          And on her head a cap as white as new-fallen snow.

          Her skin was of Egyptian brown:
          Haughty, as if her eye had seen
          Its own light to a distance thrown,
          She towered, fit person for a Queen                         10
          To lead those ancient Amazonian files;
          Or ruling Bandit's wife among the Grecian isles.

          Advancing, forth she stretched her hand
          And begged an alms with doleful plea
          That ceased not; on our English land
          Such woes, I knew, could never be;
          And yet a boon I gave her, for the creature
          Was beautiful to see--a weed of glorious feature.

          I left her, and pursued my way;
          And soon before me did espy                                 20
          A pair of little Boys at play,
          Chasing a crimson butterfly;
          The taller followed with his hat in hand,
          Wreathed round with yellow flowers the gayest of the land.

          The other wore a rimless crown
          With leaves of laurel stuck about;
          And, while both followed up and down,
          Each whooping with a merry shout,
          In their fraternal features I could trace
          Unquestionable lines of that wild Suppliant's face.         30

          Yet 'they', so blithe of heart, seemed fit
          For finest tasks of earth or air:
          Wings let them have, and they might flit
          Precursors to Aurora's car,
          Scattering fresh flowers; though happier far, I ween,
          To hunt their fluttering game o'er rock and level green.

          They dart across my path--but lo,
          Each ready with a plaintive whine!
          Said I, "not half an hour ago
          Your Mother has had alms of mine."                          40
          "That cannot be," one answered--"she is dead:"--
          I looked reproof--they saw--but neither hung his head.

          "She has been dead, Sir, many a day."--
          "Hush, boys! you're telling me a lie;
          It was your Mother, as I say!"
          And, in the twinkling of an eye,
          "Come! Come!" cried one, and without more ado,
          Off to some other play the joyous Vagrants flew!
                                                              1802.


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