Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OLD CHRISTOVAL'S ADVICE; AND THE REASON HE GAVE IT, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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OLD CHRISTOVAL'S ADVICE; AND THE REASON HE GAVE IT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: If thy debtor be poor, old christoval cried
Last Line: And remember'd what I might have been.
Subject(s): Advice; Christianity; Debt; Humility; Morality; Ethics


IF thy debtor be poor, old Christoval cried,
Exact not too hardly thy due,
For he who preserves a poor man from want
May preserve him from wickedness too.

If thy neighbour should sin, old Christoval cried,
Never, never unmerciful be!
For remember, it is by the mercy of God,
That thou art not as wicked as he.

At sixty and seven the hope of heaven
Is my comfort, old Christoval cried,
But if God had cut me off in my youth,
I might not have gone there when I died.

You shall have the farm, young Christoval,
My good master Henrique said,
But a surety provide, in whom I can confide,
That duly the rent shall be paid.

I was poor, and I had not a friend on earth,
And I knew not what to say;
We stood by the porch of St. Andres' church,
And it was on St. Isidro's day.

Accept for my surety St. Isidro,
I ventured to make reply;
The saint in heaven may perhaps be my friend,
But friendless on earth am I.

We entered the church and came to his grave,
And I fell on my bended knee;
I am friendless, holy St. Isidro,
And I venture to call upon thee.

I call upon thee my surety to be,
Thou knowest my honest intent,
And if ever I break my plighted word
Let thy vengeance make me repent!

I was idle; the day of payment came on,
And I had not the money in store,
I fear'd the wrath of St. Isidro,
But I fear'd Henrique more.

On a dark, dark night I took my flight,
And hastily fled away,
It chanced by St. Andres' church
The road I had chosen lay.

As I pass'd the door I thought what I had swore
Upon St. Isidro's day,
And I seem'd to fear because he was near,
And faster I hasten'd away.

So all night long I hurried on,
Pacing full many a mile,
I knew not his avenging hand
Was on me all the while.

Weary I was, and safe I thought;
But when it was daylight
I had, I found, been running round
And round the church all night.

I shook like a palsy and fell on my knees,
And for pardon devoutly I pray'd:
When my master came up—What! Christoval,
You are here betimes, he said.

I have been idle, good master! I cried,
Good master, and I have been wrong;
And I have been running round the church
In penance all night long.

If thou hast been idle, Henrique said,
Go home and thy fault amend;
I will not oppress thee, Christoval,
May the Saint thy labour befriend.

Homeward I went a penitent,
And I never was idle more;
St. Isidro blest my industry
As he punish'd my fault before.

When my debtor was poor, old Christoval said,
I have never exacted my due,
I remembered Henrique was good to me,
And copied his goodness too.

When my neighbour has sinn'd, old Christoval said,
I have ever forgiven his sin,
For I thought of the night by St. Andres' church,
And remember'd what I might have been.





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