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−by   Edwin Ford Piper
Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1920
Editor: William Stanley Braithwaite

Oh, the lives of men, lives of men,
  In pattern-molds be run;
But there’s you, and me, and Bindlestiff—
  And remember Mary’s Son.

At dawn the hedges and the wheel-ruts ran
Into a brightening sky. The grass bent low
With shimmering dew, and many a late wild rose
Unrolled the petals from its odorous heart
While birds held tuneful gossip. Suddenly,
Each bubbling trill and whistle hid away
As from a hawk; the fragrant silence heard
Only the loving stir of little leaves;
Then a man’s baritone broke roughly in:

I’ve gnawed my crust of mouldy bread,
  Skimmed my mulligan stew;
Laid beneath the barren hedge—
  Sleety night-winds blew.

Slanting rain chills my bones,
  Sun bakes my skin;
Rocky road for my limping feet,
  Door where I can’t go in.

Above the hedgerow floated filmy smoke
From the hidden singer’s fire. Once more the voice:

I used to burn the mules with the whip
  When I worked on the grading gang;
But the boss was a crook, and he docked my pay—
  Some day that boss will hang.

I used to live in a six by nine,
  Try to save my dough—
It’s a bellful of the chaff of life,
  Feet that up and go.

The mesh of leafy branches rustled loud,
Into the road slid Bindlestiff. You’ve seen
The like of the traveller: gaunt humanity
In stained and broken coat, with untrimmed hedge
Of rusty beard and curling sunburnt hair;
His hat, once white, a dull uncertain cone;
His leathery hands and cheeks, his bright blue eyes
That always see new faces and strange dogs;
His mouth that laughs at life and at himself.

Sometimes they shut you up in jail—
  Dark, and a filthy cell;
I hope the fellows built them jails
  Find ’em down in hell.

But up above, you can sleep outdoors—
  Feed you like a king;
You never have to saw no wood,
  Only job is sing.

The tones came mellower, as unevenly
The tramp limped off trailing the hobo song:

Good-bye, farewell to Omaha,
  K. C., and Denver, too;
Put my foot on the flying freight,
  Going to ride her through.

Bindlestiff topped a hillock, against the sky
Showed stick and bundle with his extra shoes
Jauntily dangling. Bird to bird once more
Made low sweet answer; in the wild rose cups
The bee found yellow meal; all softly moved
The white and purple morning-glory bells
As on the gently rustling hedgetop leaves
The sun’s face rested. Bindlestiff was gone.

Oh, the lives of men, lives of men,
  In pattern-molds be run;
But there’s you, and me, and Bindlestiff—
  And remember Mary’s Son.
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Webpage last updated:   Thursday, March 4, 2004