Page images

And because my jerkin was coarse and worn,
I got me a properer vest ;
It was purple velvet, stitched o'er with gold,
And a shining star at the breast,-
’T was enough to fetch old Joan from her grave
To see me so purely drest! -

But Joan was dead and under the mould,
And every buxom lass;
In vain I watched at the window-pane,
For a Christian soul to pass ; —
But sheep and kine wandered up the street,
And browsed on the new-come grass. —

When, lo! I spied the old beggar man,
And lustily he did sing! -
His rags were lapped in a scarlet cloak,
And a crown he had like a king;
So he stept right up before my gate
And danced me a saucy fling!

Heaven mend us all ! — but, within my mind
I had killed him then and there ;
To see him lording so braggart-like
That was born to his beggar's fare,
And how he had stolen the royal crown
His betters were meant to wear. ·

But God forbid that a thief should die,
Without his share of the laws !
So I nimbly whipt my tackle out,
And soon tied up his claws, –
I was judge myself, and jury, and all,
And solemnly tried the cause.

But the beggar man would not plead, but cried
Like a babe without its corals,
For he knew how hard it is apt to go
When the law and a thief have quarrels, –
There was not a Christian soul alive
To speak a word for his morals.

0, how gayly I doffed my costly gear,
And put on my work-day clothes;
I was tired of such a long Sunday life, -
And never was one of the sloths ;
But the beggar man grumbled a weary deal,
And made many crooked mouths.

So I hauled him off to the gallows' foot,
And blinded him in his bags ;
’T was a weary job to heave him up,
For a doomed man always lags;
But by ten of the clock he was off his legs
In the wind, and airing his rags !

So there he hung, and there I stood,
The last man left alive,
To have my own will of all the earth :
Quoth I, now I shall thrive!
But when was ever honey made
With one bee in a hive ?

My conscience began to gnaw my heart,
Before the day was done,
For the other men's lives had all gone out,
Like candles in the sun! -
But it seemed as if I had broke, at last,
A thousand necks in one !

So I went and cut his body down,
To bury it decently; -
God send there were any good soul alive
To do the like by me!
But the wild dogs came with terrible speed,
And bayed me up the tree !

My sight was like a drunkard's sight,
And my head began to swim,
To see their jaws all white with foam,
Like the ravenous ocean-brim; —
But when the wild dogs trotted away
Their jaws were bloody and grim!

Their jaws were bloody and grim, good Lord !
But the beggar man, where was he ? —
There was naught of him but some ribbons of rags
Below the gallows-tree ! —
I know the devil, when I am dead,
Will send his hounds for me! —

I've buried my babies one by one,
And dug the deep hole for Joan,
And covered the faces of kith and kin,
And felt the old church-yard stone
Go cold to my heart, full many a time,
But I never felt so lone!

For the lion and Adam were company,
And the tiger him beguiled;
But the simple kine are foes to my life,
And the household brutes are wild.
If the veriest cur would lick my hand,
I could love it like a child!

And the beggar man's ghost besets my dream,
At night, to make me madder,-
And my wretched conscience, within my breast,
Is like a stinging adder; —
I sigh when I pass the gallows' foot,
And look at the rope and ladder !

For hanging looks sweet, - but, alas ! in vain
My desperate fancy begs, —
I must turn my cup of sorrows quite up,
And drink it to the dregs, –
For there is not another man alive,
In the world, to pull my legs !

SLEET! and hail! and thunder!

And ye winds that rave,
Till the sands thereunder

Tinge the sullen wave —

Winds, that like a demon

Howl with horrid note
Round the toiling seaman,

In his tossing boat —

From his humble dwelling

On the shingly shore,
Where the billows swelling

Keep such hollow roar ---

From that weeping woman,

Seeking with her cries

Succor superhuman

From the frowning skies —
From the urchin pining

For his father's knee -
From the lattice shining,

Drive him out to sea !
Let broad leagues dissever

Him from yonder foam; —
0, God! to think man ever

Comes too near his home!

THE DEATH-BED. We watched her breathing through the night,

Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life

Kept heaving to and fro.
So silently we seemed to speak,

So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers

To eke her living out.
Our very hopes belied our fears,

Our fears our hopes belied —
We thought her dying when she slept.

And sleeping when she died.
For when the morn came dim and sad.

And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids closed — she had

Another morn than ours

« PreviousContinue »