Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
III. Adversity
Old
Ralph Hoyt (1806–1878)
 
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-brimmed 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-brimmed 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.
 
When the stranger seemed to mark our play,        25
  Some of us were joyous, some sad-hearted,
I remember well, too well, that day!
  Oftentimes the tears unbidden started,
          Would not stay
When the stranger seemed to mark our play.        30
 
One sweet spirit broke the silent spell,
  O, to me her name was always Heaven!
She besought him all his grief to tell,
  (I was then thirteen, and she eleven,)
          Isabel!        35
One sweet spirit broke the silent spell.
 
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old;
  Earthly hope no longer hath a morrow;
Yet, why I sit here thou shalt be told.”
  Then his eyes betrayed a pearl of sorrow,        40
          Down it rolled!
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old.
 
“I have tottered here to look once more
  On the pleasant scene where I delighted
In the careless, happy days of yore,        45
  Ere the garden of my heart was blighted
          To the core:
I have tottered here to look once more.
 
“All the picture now to me how dear!
  E’en this old gray rock where I am seated,        50
Is a jewel worth my journey here;
  Ah that such a scene must be completed
          With a tear!
All the picture now to me how dear!
 
“Old stone school-house! it is still the same;        55
  There ’s the very step I so oft mounted;
There ’s the window creaking in its frame,
  And the notches that I cut and counted
          For the game.
Old stone school-house, it is still the same.        60
 
“In the cottage yonder I was born;
  Long my happy home, that humble dwelling;
There the fields of clover, wheat, and corn;
  There the spring with limpid nectar swelling;
          Ah, forlorn!        65
In the cottage yonder I was born.
 
“Those two gateway sycamores you see
  Then were planted just so far asunder
That long well-pole from the path to free,
  And the wagon to pass safely under;        70
          Ninety-three!
Those two gateway sycamores you see.
 
“There ’s the orchard where we used to climb
  When my mates and I were boys together,
Thinking nothing of the flight of time,        75
  Fearing naught but work and rainy weather;
          Past its prime!
There ’s the orchard where we used to climb.
 
“There the rude, three-cornered chestnut-rails,
  Bound the pasture where the flocks were grazing        80
Where, so sly, I used to watch for quails
  In the crops of buckwheat we were raising;
          Traps and trails!
There the rude, three-cornered chestnut-rails.
 
“There ’s the mill that ground our yellow grain;        85
  Pond and river still serenely flowing;
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.        90
 
“There ’s the gate on which I used to swing,
  Brook, and bridge, and barn, and old red stable;
But alas! no more the morn shall bring
  That dear group around my father’s table;
          Taken wing!        95
There ’s the gate on which I used to swing.
 
“I am fleeing,—all I loved have 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;        100
          She is dead!
I am fleeing,—all I loved have fled.
 
“Yon white spire, a pencil on the sky,
  Tracing silently life’s changeful story,
So familiar to my dim eye,        105
  Points me to seven that are now in glory
          There on high!
Yon white spire, a pencil on the sky.
 
“Oft the aisle of that old church we trod,
  Guided hither by an angel mother;        110
Now she sleeps beneath its sacred sod;
  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;        115
  Bless the holy lesson!—but, ah, never
Shall I hear again those songs of praise,
  Those sweet voices silent now forever!
          Peaceful days!
There I heard of Wisdom’s pleasant ways.        120
 
“There my Mary blessed me with her hand
  When our souls drank in the nuptial blessings,
Ere she hastened to the spirit-land,
  Yonder turf her gentle bosom pressing;
          Broken band!        125
There my Mary blessed me with her hand.
 
“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        130
          To the core!
I have come to see that grave once more.
 
“Angel,” said he sadly, “I am old;
  Earthly hope no longer hath a morrow,
Now, why I sit here thou hast been told.”        135
  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;        140
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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