GRS (1847-1922 / England)

Ostler Joe

I stood at eve, as the sun went down, by a grave where a woman lies,
Who lured men's souls to the shores of sin with the light of her wanton eyes;
Who sang the song that the Siren sang on the treacherous Lurley height,
Whose face was as fair as a summer day, and whose heart was as black as night.

Yet a blossom I fain would pluck today from the garden above her dust -
Not the languorous lily of soulless sin, nor the blood-red rose of lust,
But a pure white blossom of holy love that grew in the one green spot
In the arid desert of Phryne's life, where all was parched and hot.

In the summer, when the meadows were aglow with blue and red,
Joe, the hostler of the 'Magpie,' and fair Annie Smith were wed.
Plump was Annie, plump and pretty, with cheek as white as snow;
He was anything but handsome, was the 'Magpie' hostler, Joe.

But be won the winsome lassie. They'd a cottage and a cow;
And her matronhood sat lightly on the village beauty's brow.
Sped the months and came a baby-such a blue-eyed baby boy;
Joe was working in the stables when they told him of his joy.

He was rubbing down the horses, and he gave them then and there
All a special feed of clover, just in honor of the heir.
It had been his great ambition, and he told the horses so,
That the Fates would send a baby who might bear the name of Joe.

Little Joe the child was christened, and, like babies, grew apace,
He'd his mother's eyes of azure and his father's honest face.
Swift the happy years went over, years of blue and cloudless sky,
Love was lord of that small cottage, and the tempest passed them by.

Passed them by for years, then swiftly burst in fury o'er their home.
Down the lane by Annie's cottage chanced a gentleman to roam;
Thrice he came and saw her sitting by the window with her child,
And he nodded to the baby, and the baby laughed and smiled.

So at last it grew to know him-little Joe was nearly four-
He would call the 'pretty gemlum' as he passed the open door,
And one day he ran and caught him, and in child's play pulled him in,
And the baby Joe had prayed for brought about the mother's sin.

'Twas the same old wretched story that for ages bards had sung,
'Twas a woman weak and wanton, and a villain's tempting tongue;
'Twas a picture deftly painted for a silly creature's eyes
Of the Babylonian wonders, and the joy that in them lies.

Annie listened and was tempted-she was tempted and she fell,
As the angel fell from heaven to the blackest depths of hell;
She was promised wealth and splendour, and a life of guilty sloth,
Yellow gold for child and husband-and the woman left them both.

Home one eve came Joe the hostler, with a cheery cry of 'Wife!'
Finding that which blurred forever all the story of his life.
She had left a silly letter, — through the cruel scrawl he spelt;
Then he sought his lonely bedroom, joined his horny hands, and knelt.

“Now, 0 Lord, 0 God, forgive her, for she ain't to blame,” he cried;
“For I owt to seen her trouble, and 'a' gone away and died.
Why, a wench like her-God bless her! 'twasn't likely as her'd rest
With that bonnie head forever on a hostler's rugged breast.”

“It was kind of her to bear me all this long and happy time;
So, for my sake please to bless her, though you count her deed a crime-,
If so be I don't pray proper, Lord, forgive me; for you see
I can talk all right to 'osses; but I'm nervouslike with Thee.”

Ne'er a line came to the cottage, from the woman who had flown;
Joe, the baby, died that winter, and the man was left alone.
Ne'er a bitter word he uttered, but in silence kissed the rod,
Saving what he told the horses-saving what he told his God.

Far away, in mighty London, rose the woman into fame,
For her beauty won men's homage, and she prospered in her shame.
Quick from lord to lord she flitted, higher still each prize she won,
And her rivals paled beside her, as the stars beside the sun.

Next she trod the stage half naked, and she dragged a temple down
To the level of a market for the women of the town.
And the kisses she had given to poor hostler Joe for naught
With their gold and priceless jewels rich and titled rou'es bought.


Went the years with flying footsteps while her star was at its height,
Then the darkness came on swiftly, and the gloaming turned to night.
Shattered strength and faded beauty tore the laurels from her brow;
Of the thousands who had worshipped never one came near her now.

Broken down in health and fortune, men forgot her very name,
Till the news that she was dying woke the echoes of her fame;
And the papers, in their gossip, mentioned how an actress lay
Sick to death in humble lodgings, growing weaker every day.

One there was who read the story in a far-off country place,
And that night the dying woman woke and looked upon his face.
Once again the strong arms clasped her that had clasped her years ago,
And the weary head lay pillowed on the breast of hostler Joe.

All the past had he forgiven, all the sorrow and the shame;
He had found her sick and lonely, and his wife he now could claim,
Since the grand folks who had known her, one and all, had slunk away,
He could clasp his long-lost darling, and no man would say him nay.

In his arms death found her lying, in his arms her spirit fled;
And his tears came down in torrents as he knelt beside her dead.
Never once his love had faltered, through her base, unhallowed life,
And the stone above her ashes bears the honored name of wife.

That's the blossom I fain would pluck today, from the garden above her dust;
Not the languorous lily of soulless sin, nor the blood-red rose of lust;
But a sweet white blossom of holy love, that grew in the one green spot
In the arid desert of Phryne's life, where all was parched and hot.

User Rating: 5 / 5 ( 0 votes )

Comments (0)

There is no comment submitted by members.