Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, VOICES, by RICHARD EUGENE BURTON

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First Line: A man died yesternight. To-day the town
Last Line: Nay, ask me not: ask only god. He knows.
Subject(s): Death; God; Hearts; Soul; Voices; Dead, The

A MAN died yesternight. To-day the town
Makes mention of his taking-off, and sums
His virtues and his failings. On the street,
Midst many barterings and lures of trade,
In homes where he was known, in busy marts,
Or public places where the commonweal
Gathers the town-folk: up and down his name
Is spoke of, in as various ways of speech
As are the voices various sounding it:
Gruff-throated bass, shrill treble of old age,
Soft sibilancy of a woman's tongue,
Or reed-like utterance of a little child.
Thus one, his mate in business: "Ah! a shrewd
Dry head was that; much loss to us, much loss.
And as for heart" -- wise shrug of shoulders now --
"Well, 'tis but little quoted here on 'change."
Another, who had summered with him once
In leisure-time: "A right good fellow gone!
'Tis true, he liked his ease; but who does not?
For me, give me the man that Horace loved,
Who deemed it wise to fool when seasonable."
A tiny one who oft had found great store
Of sweetmeats in his hand, and, prized far less,
Great store of tenderness within his heart:
"Oh, won't he come and see us any more?"
His surpliced pastor, bound to save his soul,
Balanced a bit by inconsistencies
He thought he saw, in private to his wife:
"Alas, poor soul! if only he had grasped
That matter of the creed, and made us sure!
But then -- his heart was right, and God is good."
And one, a woman who had found his arms
An all-protecting shelter through long years,
Said naught, but kissed the tokens he had left,
And dreamed of heaven for his sake alone.
Meanwhile, what was this man, and what his place?
You ask, confused by all this Babel talk
Of here and yonder, from his fellow-men.
I am as ignorant as any one
Whose speech you heard, and yet I loved him well.
Nay, ask me not: ask only God. He knows.

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