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.
 
V. Death and Bereavement
The Old Sexton
Park Benjamin (1809–1864)
 
NIGH to a grave that was newly made,
Leaned a sexton old on his earth-worn spade;
His work was done, and he paused to wait
The funeral train at the open gate.
A relic of bygone days was he,        5
And his locks were white as the foamy sea;
And these words came from his lips so thin:
“I gather them in: I gather them in.
 
“I gather them in! for man and boy,
Year after year of grief and joy,        10
I ’ve builded the houses that lie around,
In every nook of this burial ground;
Mother and daughter, father and son,
Come to my solitude, one by one:
But come they strangers or come they kin—        15
I gather them in, I gather them in.
 
“Many are with me, but still I ’m alone,
I ’m king of the dead—and I make my throne
On a monument slab of marble cold;
And my sceptre of rule is the spade I hold:        20
Come they from cottage or come they from hall,
Mankind are my subjects, all, all, all!
Let them loiter in pleasure or toilfully spin—
I gather them in, I gather them in.
 
“I gather them in, and their final rest        25
Is here, down here, in earth’s dark breast!”
And the sexton ceased, for the funeral train
Wound mutely o’er that solemn plain!
And I said to my heart, when time is told,
A mightier voice than that sexton’s old        30
Will sound o’er the last trump’s dreadful din—
“I gather them in, I gather them in.”
 
 
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