Poetry of Kansas

The Wayside Trough.

On the velvet hem of grasses green
    That borders the edge of the dusty way,
Under a maple's glossy screen,
    Is a rough hewn trough, all battered and gray.
All through the summer, wet or dry,
    With dripping crystal the brim o'erflows,
Pure as the rain that falls from the sky
    Free as the air that comes and goes.
Into the trough falls a tiny stream___
    Steadily falls, both day and night___
In the noontide's glow, in the moon's pale beam,
    Sparkling always___a thread of light.
This battered trough and this tiny stream
    Are known for many and many a mile.
'Tis here that the wagoner rests his team;
    For this he waits___it is worth his while.
'Tis here that the footman, faint and sore,
    Lured by the streamlet's silver tone,
Rests till the midday beats are o'er,
    Then cheered, refreshed, presses bravely on.
And children, loitering home from school,
    With lint, flushed faces, and bare, brown feet,
Dip their brows in the waters cool,
    With ringing shouts and with laughter sweet.
Whence does it come___this stream so bright,
    That falls in the trough by the dusty way___
This sparkling, musical thread of light,
    That tinkles and sings, by night and day?
Back in the fields, at a meadow's edge,
    Under a bank, by trees o'erhung,
'Mid sweet-flag clumps and grassy sedge,
    Is born the stream with the silver tongue.
A deep, clear spring, with a household name___
    Through fiercest drouth it still o'erflows,
As pure and as cold as if it came
    From rifted bosoms of melting snow.
'Twas a dear old man (bless his memory!
    It should live forever, fresh and sweet!)
Who hewed the trough from a linden tree,
    And set it down by the dusty street.
He caught and harnessed the tiny stream;
    It filled the trough and fills it yet.
In the old man's heart was a simple dream
    Of blessing his kind___but men forget.
He sleeps on the hillside, peacefully,
    Whether zephyrs sigh or storm winds blow___
The bands that hollowed the linden tree
    Were mutely folded, oh! long ago!
Still weary wayfarers stoop to drink,
    Where tinkles the stream like a silver bell.
Of the old, kind man few ever think;
    But I know he would say___"It is just as well."

__Ellen P. Allerton.

Walls of Corn and Other Poems
Ellen P. Allerton
(Hiawatha, KS: Harrington Printing Company. 1894)
Pages 106-107

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June 9, 2003 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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