Poetry of Kansas

Died Of Want.

Tread lightly on the creaking floors;
          Speak softly__so;
With careful fingers ope and shut the doors;
Calk up that crack through which the night rain pours:
          These rafters low
Bend o'er a traveler to unseen shores,
          Where all must go.
A scanty bed, a drear, unfurnished room;
          Dire noxious air,
Where pent-up Fever breathes its hot simoon,
And poverty has piled its brush and broom,
          Till all is bare;
A pale, pinched face amid the midnight gloom,
          And damp, white hair,
'Tis the last chapter of a story old
          One period more,
To finish all, and the sad tale is told.
Too late comes Charity, with generous gold
          And pity sore;
Too long since Famine and Disclose and Cold
          Entered the door.
A glimmer of gray dawn through sleet and rain,
          That beat and beat
With icy hands upon the dingy pane.
Within, a solemn hush. Fold smooth and plain
          The winding sheet.
But see! the poor lips wear a smile again,
          Serene and sweet.
Softly, good driver! scour not quite so fast
          The stony pave.
You know not how your final lot is cast;
Some dire disaster, some unlooked-for blast
          Or whelming wave,
May land you, like this poor old man, at last,
          In pauper's grave.
Replace the sod. He sleeps on pillow low,
          Like other dead.
His deep and pulseless rest no dreams shall know__
No shivering pangs, though freezing winds shall blow
          Across his bed.
But, softly fall, O rain, and winter snow,
          Above his head.

__Ellen P. Allerton.

Walls of Corn and Other Poems
Ellen P. Allerton
(Hiawatha, KS: Harrington Printing Company. 1894)
Pages 85-86

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December 3, 2002 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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