Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OLD MAN, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE OLD MAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Lo! Steadfast and serene
Last Line: Old man.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Experience; Life; Old Age; Wisdom


LO! steadfast and serene,
In patient pause between
The seen and the unseen,
What gentle zephyrs fan
Your silken silver hair, --
And what diviner air
Breathes round you like a prayer,
Old Man?
Can you, in nearer view
Of Glory, pierce the blue
Of happy Heaven through;
And, listening mutely, can
Your senses, dull to us,
Hear Angel-voices thus,
In chorus glorious --
Old Man?

In your reposeful gaze
The dusk of Autumn days
Is blent with April haze,
As when of old began
The bursting of the bud
Of rosy babyhood --
When all the world was good,
Old Man.

And yet I find a sly
Little twinkle in your eye;
And your whisperingly shy
Little laugh is simply an
Internal shout of glee
That betrays the fallacy
You'd perpetrate on me,
Old Man!

So just put up the frown
That your brows are pulling down!
Why, the fleetest boy in town,
As he bared his feet and ran,
Could read with half a glance --
And of keen rebuke, perchance --
Your secret countenance,
Old Man!

Now, honestly, confess:
Is an old man any less
Than the little child we bless
And caress when we can?
Isn't age but just a place
Where you mask the childish face
To preserve its inner grace,
Old Man?

Hasn't age a truant day,
Just as that you went astray
In the wayward, restless way,
When, brown with dust and tan,
Your roguish face essayed,
In solemn masquerade,
To hide the smile it made,
Old Man?

Now, fair, and square, and true,
Don't your old soul tremble through,
As in youth it used to do
When it brimmed and overran
With the strange, enchanted sights,
And the splendors and delights
Of the old "Arabian Nights,"
Old Man?

When, haply, you have fared
Where glad Aladdin shared
His lamp with you, and dared
The Afrite and his clan;
And, with him, clambered through
The trees where jewels grew --
And filled your pockets, too,
Old Man?

Or, with Sinbad, at sea --
And in veracity
Who has sinned as bad as he,
Or would, or will, or can? --
Have you listened to his lies,
With open mouth and eyes,
And learned his art likewise,
Old Man?

And you need not deny
That your eyes were wet as dry,
Reading novels on the sly!
And review them, if you can
And the same warm tears will fall --
Only faster, that is all --
Over Little Nell and Paul,
Old Man!

Oh, you were a lucky lad --
Just as good as you were bad!
And the host of friends you had --
Charley, Tom, and Dick, and Dan;
And the old School-Teacher, too,
Though he often censured you;
And the girls in pink and blue,
Old Man.

And -- as often you have leant,
In boyish sentiment,
To kiss the letter sent
By Nelly, Belle, or Nan --
Wherein the rose's hue
Was red, the violet blue --
And sugar sweet -- and you,
Old Man, --

So, to-day, as lives the bloom,
And the sweetness, and perfume
Of the blossoms, I assume,
On the same mysterious plan
The Master's love assures,
That the selfsame boy endures
In that hale old heart of yours,
Old Man.





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