Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WAIF, by JOHN LAWSON STODDARD

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WAIF, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I sit in my luxurious chair
Last Line: And cries in agony to god!
Subject(s): God; Grief; Life; Pain; Past; Sorrow; Sadness; Suffering; Misery

I sit in my luxurious chair;
Soft rugs caress my slippered feet;
Within, a balmy, summer air;
Without, a wintry storm of sleet.

A favorite book is in my hands,
A thousand others line the walls;
Some souvenir of distant lands
In every nook the Past recalls.

Upon a Turkish tabouret
In Dresden cups of peerless blue
Gleams on a pretty Cashmere tray
The fragrant Mocha's ebon hue.

Two dainty hands prepare the draught,
While loving glances meet my own;
Two lips repeat (the coffee quaffed),
"To-night 'tis sweet to be alone."

Hark! in the court my faithful hound
Breaks rudely on our tete-a-tete;
Too well I understand that sound!
A mendicant is at my gate.

Admit him? Yes; for none shall say
That he who seeks in want my door
Is ever harshly turned away;
His plea is heard, if nothing more.

I leave my comforts with a sigh,
And, passing to the outer hall,
Behold a wanderer doomed to die, --
So ill, I look to see him fall.

I know his story ere he speaks;
And listening to his labored breath,
I trace, with tears upon my cheeks,
His long and hopeless fight with death.

A poor, storm-beaten, lonely waif,
Lured southward from a colder clime
By hope and that unfailing faith
That health will come again in time!

Alas! too late; the dread disease
Hath fixed its roots too firmly there;
And now sick, friendless, at my knees,
He pours forth his heart-breaking prayer.

What are his needs? Before all, food!
Hot soup, bread, wine, until at last
A sense of human brotherhood
Obliterates his cruel past;

Yet not for long; for though well-fed,
With warmer garments than before,
He hath no place to lay his head,
On turning from my friendly door.

I slip some silver in his hand,
('Twill purchase shelter for the night,)
Then, silent and remorseful, stand
To watch his bent form out of sight.

On, on he goes through snow and sleet,
With nothing more of warmth and cheer!
From such a home to such a street!
Ah, should I not have kept him here?

My room is no less bright and warm,
But all its charm and joy have fled;
That lonely figure in the storm
Leaves both our hearts uncomforted.

For this is but one tiny wave
In life's vast, shoreless sea of woe, --
One note in man's hoarse cry to save,
Resounding o'er its ebb and flow;

I ask myself in blank dismay, --
Ought I my little wealth to own?
Yet, should I give it all away,
'Twere but a drop to ocean thrown!

Great God! if what I dimly see,
In this small section of mankind,
Of pain and want and misery,
Can thus bring anguish to my mind,

How canst Thou view the awful whole,
As our ensanguined planet rolls
From unknown source to unknown goal
its freight of suffering human souls?

Permitted pain! -- the first and last
Of riddles that we strive to solve,
More poignant ever, and more vast,
As man's mentalities evolve,

I hear thy victims' ceaseless wails,
I view the path my race hath trod,
And at the sight my spirit quails,
And cries in agony to God!

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