Do I not wish I was like other folk?
Well, if a wish would do me any good
I think,—I almost think, sir,—that I should.
But if a lame limb's my appointed yoke,
It's not as bad as many a one might be,
It's easier p'raps to carry than to see!
I was not born here,—No, it must be hard
To be a poor lame child in such a place.
Why wonder at his pinched and wearied face,
When he's from God's own grass and trees debarred?
But just because I pity him, I guess
The God who made him does not pity less!
Lincoln's my place,—I hear they call it flat
The country thereabouts; but to my mind
It's just the sweetest spot you'll ever find:
But then the place one's born in's always that!
I know you'll smile, sir, but I often sit,
Hear parson talk of Heaven, and think of it!
They were as kind at home, as kind can be;
If father carried Kate or little Joe,
The rest would fret, and want a turn, you know,
But never minded how he carried me!
I've travelled over many a mile like that,
(God help the folks who call you country flat!)
If you've a trouble any one can see,
I think you'll always find them very kind:
It's when you go a-limping in your mind,
You get pushed over, or let coldly be.
Do I know aught of that? Well, sir, I do,
We cripples have our hearts, sir, just like you!
I could not play among the boys so strong,
But played among the girls! And there was one
Would leave her comrades to their dance or furl,
Beside my halting crutch to move along.
Lent me her books, and gave herself no rest
To find the flowers she knew I liked the best.
And at the old church steps she'd always wait,
To give a friendly hand to help me down,
Till prouder of my crutch than of a crown
I grew ! Out of such threads God weaves our fate.
And it went on—and I grew up with her,
And was bewitched to ask—you guess it, sir?
We two were walking in a long green lane:
'Why, Jem,' she said, 'I never thought you'd care,
You seemed so different to the rest, but there,
Forget it ! Let us be ourselves again.'
She pitied me, and yet with half a smile!
I should have understood it all the while.
I was so foolish that I couldn't bear
The fields with all their dear old pollard trees
There always seemed a voice upon the breeze
Saying, 'Why, Jem, I never thought you'd care.'
So now, the old folks dead, I came away,
And found this court—a change of scene, you'll say!
When I went back again, she was not there,
I'd thought to find her wed, and wish her joy.
But she was gone, sir, with a baby-boy!
And where she'd gone the people did not care;
They gave her bitter names and foul disgrace;
O, sir, I only saw the sweet good childish face!
I've never found her, sir; I've gone about
Over this city, when my work was done,
But, sir, they're many, and she's only one!
And now, I think, that I must die without.
She's dead, I fear, in some black city sod;
I loved her sir, and so, I hope, did God!
I've help'd a few poor girls for her dear sake;
I do not fear their paint and evil tongue;
Somebody knew them, sir, when they were young;
They've told me stories fit your heart to break,
And if I'm kind to them, it helps my faith
God sent her comfort in a peaceful death.
I've had a hard life?—Did you say so, sir?
No, no! You see see, I often ponder thus:
The very Bible seems express for us;
Christ healed the lame, and spoke to girls like her.
No, sir, I think my sort of life's the best,
Just makes one tired enough to like one's rest.
It's sixty years I've hobbled on my way,
She must be dead, and I—I can't last long.
I'll know her voice in all the burst of song
When Heaven's gate opens. If she's there, d'ye say?
We mustn't judge our foes, says God above,
Surely some ground of hope for those we love!