Orphan School

Full fifty merry maids I heard
One summer morn a-singing;
And each was like a joyous bird
With spring-clear not a-ringing.
It was an old-time soldier song
That held their happy voices:
Oh how it's good to swing along
When youth rejoices!

Then lo! I dreamed long years had gone,
They passed again ungladly.
Their backs were bent, their cheeks were wan,
Their eyes were staring sadly.
Their ranks were thinned by full a score
From death's remorseless reaping
Their steps were slow, they sang no more,--
Nay, some were weeping.

Dark dream! I saw my maids today
Singing so innocently;
Their eyes with happiness were gay,
They looked at me so gently.
Thought I: Be merry in your youth
With hearts unrueing:
Thank God you do not know the truth
Of Life's Undoing!

by Robert William Service

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