Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OLD WASHERWOMAN, by ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE OLD WASHERWOMAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Among yon lines her hands have laden
Last Line: Look on my shroud with such meek pleasure.

AMONG yon lines her hands have laden,
A laundress with white hair appears,
Alert as many a youthful maiden,
Spite of her five-and-seventy years.
Bravely she won those white hairs, still
Eating the bread hard toil obtain'd her,
And laboring truly to fulfil
The duties to which God ordain'd her.

Once she was young and full of gladness;
She loved and hoped, was woo'd and won;
Then came the matron's cares, the sadness
No loving heart on earth may shun.
Three babes she bore her mate; she pray'd
Beside his sick-bed; he was taken;
She saw him in the churchyard laid,
Yet kept her faith and hope unshaken.

The task her little ones of feeding
She met unfaltering from that hour;
She taught them thrift and honest breeding,
Her virtues were their worldly dower.
To seek employment, one by one,
Forth with her blessing they departed,
And she was in the world alone,
Alone and old, but still high-hearted.

With frugal forethought, self-denying,
She gather'd coin and flax she bought,
And many a night her spindle plying,
Good store of fine-spun thread she wrought.
The thread was fashion'd in the loom;
She brought it home, and calmly seated
To work, with not a thought of gloom,
Her decent grave-clothes she completed.

She looks on them with fond elation,
They are her wealth, her treasure rare,
Her age's pride and consolation,
Hoarded with all a miser's care.
She dons the sark each Sabbath day,
To hear the Word that faileth never;
Well-pleased she lays it then away,
Till she shall sleep in it forever.

Would that my spirit witness bore me
That, like this woman, I had done
The work my Master put before me,
Duly from morn till set of sun.
Would that life's cup had been by me
Quaff'd in such wise and happy measure,
And that I too might finally
Look on my shroud with such meek pleasure.

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