Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OLD TRAMP, by PIERRE JEAN DE BERANGER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE OLD TRAMP, by                    
First Line: In this dark ditch my life shall pass away
Last Line: The poor old tramp now dies your bitter foe.
Subject(s): Adversity; Begging & Beggars; Wandering & Wanderers; Wanderlust; Vagabonds; Tramps; Hoboes

IN this dark ditch my life shall pass away,
Worn out, and very weary, weak and old;
'The wretch is drunk,' the passers-by will say;
Best so, that they vain pity may withhold;
Some of them turn away their heads, I see;
Some throw an alms, and then their way pursue;
Haste to your sports, and never think of me,
The poor old tramp can die unhelped by you.

Yes, truly I am dying of old age,
Since here one does not die for lack of bread.
I hoped, my final sufferings to assuage,
That in some poor-house I should find a bed;
But full is every poor-house, far and near,
The poor are all so wretched and forlorn:
The street did my deserted childhood rear;
The poor old tramp will die where he was born.

The artisans I asked, when I was young
And fit for work, to let me learn a trade--
'E'en now to share our work too many throng,
So you had better beg,' was all they said.
You rich, who used to bid me labour find,
I had the scraps which from your table fell,
And oft slept well upon your straw reclined;
The poor old tramp for this can wish you well.

I might have robbed, excused by poverty;
But no, 'twas better done for alms to pray;
At most I took an apple, passing by,
That ripened on the margin of the way:
Yet twenty times to lock me they contrive
In gaol, of nothing guilty but distress,
And of my only property deprive;
The poor old tramp doth still the sun possess.

Can the poor any native country claim?
What profit brings to me your wine and wheat?
Your wondrous industries and vaunted fame?
Your orators, who in the senate meet?
When in your walls, oped by their victory,
The foes a course of scornful plunder led,
Like a born fool, I used to weep and sigh;
The poor old tramp was by their bounty fed.

Why, like some noxious insect, good for nought,
Did you not crush me, men, beneath your heel?
Rather some honest trade you should have taught,
And I had laboured for the common weal;
Unforced 'gainst wind and tempest to contend,
The worm into an ant had chanced to grow,
And I had been a brother and a friend;
The poor old tramp now dies your bitter foe.

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