The Children Out-of-Doors


THEIR wandering cries are in the windy street;
(O faces wan and sweet!)
What ear doth stoop to listen, — eye to mark
Those footsteps in the dark?
In my warm room, full-filled with childish glee,
The still thought troubles me:s
These children I call mine; what parent yours,
Ye children out-of-doors?
Fatherless, motherless, shelterless, unfed
Save crusts of bitter bread!
How dare I rest, my lids to sleep resign!
Are ye not also mine?


Who is it, in the deep-breathed winter night,
While snows lie starry-bright,
Knocks at my door? (Or did a passing wind
Deceive my empty mind ?)
It is a little child, sore-pinched with cold,
Ragged and hunger-bold,
Houseless and friendless, goes from door to door,
Knocking, as oft before.
“ Arise, and let Him in!” a voice is heard,
At which my sleep was stirred
A little, oh a little, and my heart
Beat with a quickening start.
Arise, and let Him in!”—a voice, no more.
Sleep double-locks the door,
And Christ, who, child-like, piteously came,
Leaves me to waking shame.


He born in each of these, the Son of God,
Walks, so disguised, abroad;
Dwells in mean places, nursed by cold and want,
Abused, half-naked, gaunt.
He goes, a homeless child, to happy homes,
Whence light, with laughter, comes
From blissful hearths, through many a shining pane.
He waits, in frost or rain.
Blessèd they are who hearken when He knocks,
And open eager locks;
Who bid from out-of-doors the stranger come,
And give the homeless home.
Oh, blessèd they who in his piteous guise
The Wanderer recognize;
The Light of the World through conscious doors they win
Who rise and let Him in!
John James Piatt.
  1. Read at opening of Children’s Home Fair, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 15, 1873.