Lyrics of the Street (Part III)

A poem

This is the third poem in a series of six.
Read the first poem here, the second here,
the fourth here, the fifth here, and the sixth here.

The Charitable Visitor.

She carries no flag of fashion, her clothes are but passing plain,
Though she comes from a city palace all jubilant with her reign.
She threads a bewildering alley, with ashes and dust thrown out,
And fighting and cursing children, who mock as she moves about.

Why walk you this way, my lady, in the snow and slippery ice?
These are not the shrines of virtue, — here misery lives, and vice:
Rum helps the heart of starvation to a courage bold and bad;
And women are loud and brawling, while men sit maudlin and mad.

I see in the corner yonder the boy with the broken arm,
And the mother whose blind wrath did it, strange guardian from childish harm.
That face will grow bright at your coming, but your steward might come as well,
Or better the Sunday teacher that helped him to read and spell.

Oh! I do not come of my willing, with forward and restless feet;
I have pleasant tasks in my chamber, and friends well-beloved to greet.
To follow the dear Lord Jesus I walk in the storm and snow;
Where I find the trace of His footsteps, there lilies and roses grow.

He said that to give was blessed, more blessèd than to receive;
But what could He take, dear angels, of all that we had to give,
Save a little pause of attention, and a little thrill of delight,
When the dead were waked from their slumbers, and the birds recalled to sight?

Say, the King came forth with the morning, and opened His palace-doors,
Thence flinging His girls like sunbeams that break upon marble floors;
But the wind with wild pinions caught them, and carried them round about:
Though I looked till mine eyes were dazzled, I never could make them out.

But He bade me go far and find them, “go seek them with zeal and pain;
The hand is most welcome to me that brings me mine own again;
And those who follow them farthest, with faithful searching and sight,
Are brought with joy to my presence, and sit at my feet all night.”

So hither and thither walking, I gather them broadly cast;
Where yonder young face doth sicken, it may be the best and last.
In no void or vague of duty I come to his aid to-day;
I bring God’s love to his bed-side, and carry God’s gift away.