The Poor Man and His Parish Church.
THE Poor have Hands, and Feet, and Eyes,
Flesh, and a Feeling Mind,
They breathe the Breath of Mortal Sighs--
They are of Human Kind!
They weep such Tears as others shed,
And now and then They smile,
For sweet to them is that poor Bread
They win with honest Toil!
The Poor-Men have their Wedding-Day,
And Children climb their knee,--
They have not many Friends, for They
Are in such Misery.
They sell their Youth, their Skill, their Pains,
For Hire, in Hill and Glen,
The very Blood within their Veins
It flows for other Men!
They should have Roofs to call their own,
When they grow Old and Bent,
Meek Houses built of dark-grey Stone,
Worn Labour's Monument!
There should They dwell beneath the Thatch,
With Threshold calm and free,
No Stranger's wand should lift the Latch
To mark their Poverty.
Fast-by The Church those Walls should stand,
Her Aisles in Youth they trod,
They have no Home in all the Land
Like that Old House of God!
There! There! The Sacrament was Shed
That gave them Heavenly Birth,
And lifted up The Poor-Man's Head,
With Princes of The Earth!
There in The Chancel's Voice of Praise
Their simple Vows were pour'd;
And Angels look'd, with equal gaze,
On Lazarus and his Lord!
There too at last, They calmly sleep
Where hallow'd Blossoms bloom,--
And Eyes as fond and faithful weep,
As o'er The Rich Man's Tomb.
They told me of an ancient Home,
Beside a Churchyard-Wall;
Where Roses round The Porch would roam,
And gentle Jasmines fall:--
There, dwelt an Old Man, worn and blind,
Poor, and of lowliest Birth,
He seem'd The Last of all his Kind,
He had no Friend on Earth!
Men saw him, till his eyes grew dim,
At Morn and Evening-Tide,
Pass 'mid the Graves with tottering Limb,
To The Grey Chancel's Side:--
There knelt he down, and meekly pray'd
The Prayers his Youth had known--
Words, by The Old Apostles made,
In Tongues of ancient Tone!
At Matin-time, at Evening-Hour,
He bent with reverent Knee,
The Dial carved upon The Tower
Was not more true than He:
This lasted till The Blindness fell,
In Shadows round his Bed,
And on those walls he lov'd so well
He look'd--and They were fled!
Then would he watch and fondly turn,
If Feet of Men were there,
For tell them how his Soul would Yearn
For The Old Place of Prayer:--
And some would lead him on, to stand
While fast their Tears would fall,
Until he felt beneath his Hand
The long-accustom'd Wall!
Then Joy in those dim Eyes would melt,
Faith found the former Tone--
His Heart, within his Bosom, felt
The Touch of every stone!
He died--He slept beneath the Dew,
In his own grassy Mound
The Corpse, within the Coffin, knew
That calm, that Holy Ground!
I know not why--but when they tell
Of Houses fair and wide,
Where Troops of Poor-Men go to dwell
In Chambers side by side,--
I dream of that Old Cottage Door
With Garlands overgrown,
And wish, The Children of The Poor,
Had Flowers to call their own!
And when They vaunt, that in those Walls,
They have their Worship-Day,
Where The Stern Signal coldly calls
The prison'd Poor to pray:--
I think upon that Ancient Home
Beside the Churchyard-Wall,
Where Roses round The Porch would roam
And gentle Jasmines fall!
I see The Old Man of my Lay,
His Grey Head bow'd and bare,
He kneels by One Dear Wall to pray--
The Sunlight in his Hair!
Well! They may strive, as Wise Men will,
To work with Wit and Gold,
I think my own dear Cornwall still
Was happier of Old!
O! for The Poor-Man's Church again!
With one Roof over all,
Where The True Hearts of Cornish Men
Might beat beside The Wall!
The Altars, where in holier Days
Our Fathers were forgiven;
Who went with meek and faithful ways,
Through The Old Aisles to Heaven!
A House, a Glebe, a Pound a Day,
A Pleasant Place to watch and pray,
Be True to Church, be Kind to poor,
O Minister! for Evermore!