Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
181. Old
 
By Ralph Hoyt
 
 
BY the wayside, on a mossy stone,
  Sat a hoary pilgrim sadly musing;
Oft I marked him sitting there alone,
  All the landscape like a page perusing;
        Poor, unknown,        5
By the wayside, on a mossy stone.
 
Buckled knee and shoe, and broad-rimmed hat,
  Coat as ancient as the form ’t was folding,
Silver buttons, queue, and crimped cravat,
  Oaken staff his feeble hand upholding,        10
        There he sat!
Buckled knee and shoe, and broad-rimmed hat.
 
Seemed it pitiful he should sit there,
  No one sympathizing, no one heeding,
None to love him for his thin gray hair,        15
  And the furrows all so mutely pleading
        Age and care;
Seemed it pitiful he should sit there.
 
It was summer, and we went to school,
  Dapper country lads and little maidens,        20
Taught the motto of the “Dunce’s Stool,”—
  Its grave import still my fancy ladens,
        “HERE’S A FOOL!”
It was summer, and we went to school.
 
Still, in sooth, our tasks we seldom tried,        25
  Sportive pastime only worth our learning,
But we listened when the old man sighed,
  And that lesson to our hearts went burning,
        And we cried;
Still, in sooth, our tasks we seldom tried.        30
 
When the stranger seemed to mark our play,
  (Some of us were joyous, some sad-hearted),
I remember well,—too well,—that day!
  Oftentimes the tears unbidden started,
        Would not stay,—        35
When the stranger seemed to mark our play.
 
When we cautiously adventured nigh
  We could see his lip with anguish quiver:
Yet no word he uttered, but his eye
  Seemed in mournful converse with the river        40
        Murmuring by,
When we cautiously adventured nigh.
 
One sweet spirit broke the silent spell,—
  Ah, to me her name was always heaven!
She besought him all his grief to tell,        45
  (I was then thirteen, and she eleven),
        Isabel!
One sweet spirit broke the silent spell.
 
Softly asked she with a voice divine,
  “Why so lonely hast thou wandered hither;        50
Hast no home?—then come with me to mine;
  There ’s our cottage, let me lead thee thither;
        Why repine?”
Softly asked she with a voice divine.
 
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old:        55
  Earthly hope no longer hath a morrow,
Yet why I sit here thou shalt be told;”
  Then his eye betrayed a pearl of sorrow,—
        Down it rolled;
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old!        60
 
“I have tottered here to look once more
  On the pleasant scene where I delighted
In the careless, happy days of yore,
  Ere the garden of my heart was blighted
        To the core;        65
I have tottered here to look once more!
 
“All the picture now to me how dear!
  E’en this gray old rock where I am seated
Seems a jewel worth my journey here;
  Ah, that such a scene should be completed        70
        With a tear!
All the picture now to me how dear!
 
“Old stone school-house!—it is still the same!
  There ’s the very step so oft I mounted;
There ’s the window creaking in its frame,        75
  And the notches that I cut and counted
        For the game:
Old stone school-house!—it is still the same!
 
“In the cottage yonder I was born;
  Long my happy home—that humble dwelling;        80
There the fields of clover, wheat, and corn,
  There the spring with limpid nectar swelling;
        Ah, forlorn!
In the cottage yonder I was born.
 
“Those two gateway sycamores you see        85
  Then were planted, just so far asunder
That long well-pole from the path to free,
  And the wagon to pass safely under;
        Ninety-three!
Those two gateway sycamores you see.        90
 
“There ’s the orchard where we used to climb
  When my mates and I were boys together,
Thinking nothing of the flight of time,
  Fearing naught but work and rainy weather;
        Past its prime!        95
There ’s the orchard where we used to climb!
 
“There the rude three-cornered chestnut rails,
  Round the pasture where the flocks were grazing,
Where so sly I used to watch for quails
  In the crops of buckwheat we were raising,        100
        Traps and trails,
There the rude three-cornered chestnut rails.
 
“How in summer have I traced that stream,
  There through mead and woodland sweetly gliding,
Luring simple trout with many a scheme        105
  From the nooks where I have found them hiding;
        All a dream!
How in summer have I traced that stream!
 
“There ’s the mill that ground our yellow grain;
  Pond and river still serenely flowing;        110
Cot, there nestling in the shaded lane,
  Where the lily of my heart was blowing,—
        Mary Jane!
There ’s the mill that ground our yellow grain!
 
“There ’s the gate on which I used to swing,        115
  Brook, and bridge, and barn, and old red stable:
But, alas! the morn shall no more bring
  That dear group around my father’s table;
        Taken wing!
There ’s the gate on which I used to swing!        120
 
“I am fleeing!—all I loved are fled;
  Yon green meadow was our place for playing;
That old tree can tell of sweet things said,
  When around it Jane and I were straying;
        She is dead!        125
I am fleeing!—all I loved are fled!
 
“Yon white spire—a pencil on the sky,
  Tracing silently life’s changeful story,
So familiar to my dim old eye,
  Points me to seven that are now in glory        130
        There on high!
Yon white spire, a pencil on the sky.
 
“Oft the aisle of that old church we trod,
  Guided thither by an angel mother,—
Now she sleeps beneath its sacred sod,        135
  Sire and sisters, and my little brother;
        Gone to God!
Oft the aisle of that old church we trod.
 
“There I heard of Wisdom’s pleasant ways;
  Bless the holy lesson!—but, ah, never        140
Shall I hear again those songs of praise,
  Those sweet voices silent now forever!
        Peaceful days!
There I heard of Wisdom’s pleasant ways.
 
“There my Mary blest me with her hand,        145
  When our souls drank in the nuptial blessing,
Ere she hastened to the spirit land:
  Yonder turf her gentle bosom pressing:
        Broken band!
There my Mary blest me with her hand.        150
 
“I have come to see that grave once more,
  And the sacred place where we delighted,
Where we worshipped in the days of yore,
  Ere the garden of my heart was blighted
        To the core;        155
I have come to see that grave once more.
 
“Haply, ere the verdure there shall fade,
  I, all withering with years, shall perish;
With my Mary may I there be laid,
  Join forever—all the wish I cherish—        160
        Her dear Shade!—
Haply, ere the verdure there shall fade.”
 
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old!
  Earthly hope no longer hath a morrow;
Now why I sit here thou hast been told.”        165
  In his eye another pearl of sorrow,—
        Down it rolled;
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old!”
 
By the wayside, on a mossy stone,
  Sat the hoary pilgrim, sadly musing;        170
Still I marked him sitting there alone,
  All the landscape like a page perusing;
        Poor, unknown,
By the wayside, on a mossy stone.
 

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