Poetry of Kansas

Crazy Nell.

A bent and stooping spine,
A broken staff, with twine
      Mended well;
A bundle on a crook,
A mild, yet gentle look,
And a nose so sharp and thin
That it almost pierced the skin___
    Crazy Nell!
 
Coming often to our door.
Twenty years ago, or more,
      Crazy Nell,
With her bundle and her staff,
And her melancholy laugh,
Begged a humble place to lie___
Soft or hard___low or high,
      It was well.
 
How we shuddered___how we cried___
And in corners shrank to hide,
      In our fear.
 
For the thin and tattered rags,
As they hung in shreds and tags,
And the bundle and the staff,
And the sad and broken laugh,
      Were so queer.
 
But as we older grew,
We learned to pity, too,
      Crazy Nell;
For, in tender voice and low,
Did our mother tell us how
      Ere she fell
Into overtaking sin
This ghostly wreck had been
      A beauty and a belle.
 
A face so fair and sweet,
Was not seen upon the street,
      Anywhere,
And her blue eyes smiled for ail,
From between a parted fall
      Of golden hair,
Where now the gray locks thin
Straggled to the wrinkled chin,
      Sharp and spare.
 
'Twas the tale so often told
In the ears of young and old -
      For she fell,
But, amid her suffering,
And with reason tottering,
      Gentle Nell,
Who beguiled with foul deceit,
And who tripped her careless feet,
      Would never tell.
 
So she bore it all alone,
Until reason from her throne
      Crumbled down;
And her bundle and her staff
Were the cruel sport and laugh
      Of the clown,
As she wandered, bent and old,
And sought the pity cold
      Of the town.
 
But one cold November day,
She was found beside the way___
      Crazy Nell;
With her head upon the sand,
And her staff within her hand,
      And the bell,
In the steeple by the river,
With its mournful sob and quiver,
      Tolled her knell.
 
And they laid her down below,
Where the summer grasses grow,
      In the dell,
Who stroll judge her so and so,
Lying there, with head so low?
      Who shall tell
That the play is ended so?
Only 'tis the last we know
      Of Crazy Nell.

__Ellen P. Allerton.

Walls of Corn and Other Poems
Ellen P. Allerton
(Hiawatha, KS: Harrington Printing Company. 1894)
Pages 178-180

 
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February 18, 2003 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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