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  Rich And Poor  

 

    Old Aleck, the weaver, sat in the nook
Of his chimney, reading an ancient book,
Old, and yellow, and sadly worn,
With covers faded, and soiled, and torn;--
And the tallow candle would flicker and flare
As the wind, which tumbled the old man's hair,
Swept drearily in through a broken pane,
Damp and chilling with sleet and rain.

    Yet still, unheeding the changeful light,
Old Aleck read on and on that night;
Sometimes lifting his eyes, as he read,
To the cob-webb'd rafters overhead;--
But at length he laid the book away,
And knelt by his broken stool to pray;
And something, I fancied, the old man said
About "treasures in Heaven" of which he'd read.

    A wealthy merchant over the way
Sat in his lamp-light's steady ray,
Where many a volume richly bound
And heavily gilded was lying round.
One, with glittering clasps was there,
Embossed, and pictured, and wondrous fair;
But the printed words were the very same
As those I read by the flickering flame
That gave me light as I stooped to look
Into the old man's tattered book,
And I knew by the page's spotless white,
No hand had opened it yet to the light.

    "Treasures In Heaven"!--what, rich man, heir
To countless thousands, your thoughts are--where?
With these he read of?--No; ah, no!--
Over the storm-vexed waters they go,
Where stout ships buffet the blast to-night,
With never a glimmering star in sight!

    Day fretted the east with its stormy gold,
But the turbulent ocean raged and rolled,
And dashed on many a rock girt shore
The wrecks of ships that would sail no more,--
Lifting, at times, to the topmost wave
Ghastly faces no hand could save,--
And then, far down with his treasures vain,
Burying each in the depths again.

    And the merchant looked from his mansion fair,
Over the ocean, with troubled air;
And thought of his treasures, in one short night
Whelmed in the deep by the tempest's might;--
Ah,--I knew by that pale brow's deepening gloom,
That he owned no treasure beyond the tomb.

    Day fretted the east with its stormy gold,
Creeping slow through a casement old,
And stealing sadly with faint, cold ray
Into the hut where the old man lay.
White and still was the scattered hair,
And the hands were crossed with a reverent air;--
Calm and stirless the eyelids lay,
Pale as marble and cold as clay,
But the lips were tenderly wreathed, the while,
With the beautiful light of a saintly smile;
And I knew he had passed from that desolate room
To a fadeless treasure beyond the tomb.

       - Mrs. J. C. Yule


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