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Poems (Wordsworth, 1815)/Volume 2/Beggars

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XXII.

BEGGARS.

 


 

She had a tall Man's height, or more;
No bonnet screened her from the heat;
A long drab-coloured Cloak she wore,
A Mantle reaching to her feet:
What other dress she had I could not know;
Only she wore a Cap that was as white as snow.


In all my walks, through field or town,
Such Figure had I never seen:
Her face was of Egyptian brown:
Fit person was she for a Queen,
To head those ancient Amazonian files:
Or ruling Bandit's Wife, among the Grecian Isles.


Before me begging did she stand,
Pouring out sorrows like a sea;
Grief after grief:—on English Land
Such woes I knew could never be;
And yet a boon I gave her; for the Creature
Was beautiful to see; "a Weed of glorious feature!"


I left her, and pursued my way;
And soon before me did espy
A pair of little Boys at play,
Chasing a crimson butterfly;
The Taller followed with his hat in hand,
Wreathed round with yellow flow'rs, the gayest of the land.


The Other wore a rimless crown,
With leaves of laurel stuck about:
And they both followed up and down,
Each whooping with a merry shout;
Two Brothers seemed they, eight and ten years old;
And like that Woman's face as gold is like to gold.


They bolted on me thus, and lo!
Each ready with a plaintive whine;
Said I, "Not half an hour ago
Your Mother has had alms of mine."
"That cannot be," one answer'd, "She is dead."
"Nay but I gave her pence, and she will buy you bread."


"She has been dead, Sir, many a day."
"Sweet Boys, you're telling me a lie;
"It was your Mother, as I say—"
And in the twinkling of an eye,
"Come, come!" cried one; and, without more ado,
Off to some other play they both together flew.