City Contrasts

A barefooted child on the crossing,
Sweeping the mud away,
A lady in silks and diamonds,
Proud of the vain display;
A beggar blind on the curbstone,
A rich man passing along;
A tiny child with a tambourine
Wailing out her life in song.

A pauper in lone hearse passing,
Hurried away to the tomb;
A train of carriages, music grand,
And the flutter of waving plume.
For the one there is never a mourner,
He cumbered the earth alway;
For the other the flags at half-mast droop,
And the city wears black today.

A soldier with one sleeve empty,
That sadly hangs by his side,
Another shuffling along the walk
In the flush of health and pride;
A cripple-girl slowly toiling
Through the vexed and crowded street,
And tearfully gazing at those who pass
With hearts as light as their feet.

A wreck of a woman flaunting,
As if proud of her very shame,
A purer sister whose modest cheeks
Would crimson e'en at the name;
A petty thief stealing in terror,
Afraid in your face to gaze,
And one who has robbed by the thousands,
Courting the sun's broad blaza.

The millionaire in his carriage,
The workman plodding along,
The humble follower of the right,
And the slave of the giant wrong;
The murderer seeking a refuge,
Looking ever wearily back,
And the sleuth hounds of the broken law
Following silently in his track.

The judge, freed now of the ermine,
Pompous of place and power,
And the shivering wretch his word will doom
To prison within an hour;
The miser clutching his pennies,
The spendthrift squandering gold,
The meeked-eyed Sister of Mercy,
And the woman brazen and bold.

The widow, in weeds of blackness,
Meets the bride at the church door--
The future for one holds nothing but tears,
But joy for the other in store.
A cradle jostles a coffin--
Orange-flowers, with honeyed breath,
Are wove by the self-same fingers
That but now made a cross for death.

Dives and Lazarus elbow
Each other whene'er they meet,
And the crumbs from the rich man's table
Feed the beggar upon the street.
And penury crowdeth plenty,
And sin stalks boldly abroad,
And the infidel holds his head proudly
As the child of the living God.

The bee in its ceaseless searching
Finds sweets in each flower fair,
And the noisome spider, creeping up,
Finds nothing but poison there.
And so life is made up of contrasts--
Rich and poor, coward and brave,
Virtue and vice, and all will find
Equality in the grave.

by Anonymous Americas

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