Rags and Robes

 "Hark, hark!
  The dogs do bark;
Beggars are coming to town:
  Some in rags,
  Some in tags,
And some in velvet gowns!"
1Coming, coming always!
2  Crowding into earth;
3Seizing on this human life,
4  Beggars from the birth.
5Some in patent penury;
6  Some, alas! in shame;
7And some in fading velvet
8  Of hereditary fame;
9But all in deep, appeaseless want,
10  As mendicants to live;
11And go beseeching through the world,
12  For what the world may give.
13Beggars, beggars, all of us!
14  Expectants from our youth:
15With hands outstretched, and asking alms
16  Of Hope and Love and Truth.
17Nor, verily, doth he escape
18  Who, wrapt in cold contempt,
19Denies alike to give or take,
20  And dreams himself exempt;
21Who never, in appeal to man,
22  Nor in a prayer to Heaven,
23Will own that aught he doth desire,
24  Or ask that aught be given.
25Whose human heart a stoic pride
26  Folds as a velvet pall;
27Yet hides a meagreness within,
28  Worse beggary than all!
29       ------------
30Coming, coming always!
31  And the bluff Apostle waits
32As the throng pours upward from the earth
33  To Heaven's eternal gates.
34In shreds of torn affection,
35  In passion-rended rags;
36While scarcely at the portal
37  The great procession flags;
38For the pillared doors of glory
39  On their hinges hand awide;
40Where each asking soul may enter,
41  And at last be satisfied!
42But a cold, calm shade arriveth,
43  In self-complacent trim, --
44And Peter riseth up to see
45  Especially to him.
46"Good morrow, saint! I'm going in
47  To take a stroll, you know;
48Not that I want for anything --
49  But just to see the show!"
50"Hold!" thunders out the warden,
51  "Be pleased to pause a bit!
52For seats celestial, let me say,
53  You're not aparelled fit:
56Whatever may be thought on earth,
57  We've other rules in heaven;
58And only poverty confessed
59  Finds free admittance given!"

Notes

54] brazen: brass. Back to Line
55] pit: hell. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Whitney, Adeline Dutton Train, Mother Goose for Grown Folks (New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1860): 47-51.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire