Poetry of Kansas

The Old Tramp.

Believe me, fair lady, I've told you the truth,
    And my presence portends you no harm;
I am weary and sick and would ask but a crusts
    And the privilege to sleep in your barn.
I know that I belong to a class that's despised,
    And the shame and disgrace do I feel;
But lady, these hands are unsullied with crime,
    And I never have stooped to steal
I sometimes am favored with shelter and food
    For the charitable yet may be found;
But I am often refused, and sometimes abused,
    And 'compelled to sleep out on the ground.
Yes, I once had a home and friends that were dear,
    Was happy and proud of my name;
And though I've not borne it for many a year,
    It is one not unknown to fame.
There sometimes are reasons we cannot explain,
    There are tales that should never be told,
For sympathy ceases to charm away pain
    When the heart has grown withered and cold.
The clothes that I wear, though unseemly and old,
    Is the garb of the Prussian Uhlans,
And foremost and first in the ranks it was seen
    When we charged on the right at Le Mans.
I've espoused every cause that I deemed to be right,
    I have often sought death, but in vain;
And whilst others rejoiced that their lives had been
    I envied the ones that were slain.
Though wretched and ragged, I!m destined to roam,
    My journey's ahead but a span,
For down from the past I have traversed the years
    That God has alloted to man.
Thanks, thanks for your bounty and generous words,
    Your kindness I shall not betray,
But offer a prayer for your welfare to-night,
    And when the day dawns steal away.

__John Sinclair, Independence.

Poets and Poetry of Kansas
Edited by Thomas W. Herringshaw
(Chicago: American Publishers' Association. 1894)
Page 50

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August 17, 2002 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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