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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

David Gray 1838–61

The Dear Old Toiling One

OH, many a leaf will fall to-night,

As she wanders through the wood!

And many an angry gust will break

The dreary solitude.

I wonder if she’s past the bridge,

Where Luggie moans beneath,

While rain-drops clash in planted lines

On rivulet and heath.

Disease hath laid his palsied palm

Upon my aching brow;

The headlong blood of twenty-one

Is thin and sluggish now.

’T is nearly ten! A fearful night,

Without a single star

To light the shadow on her soul

With sparkle from afar:

The moon is canopied with clouds,

And her burden it is sore;

What would wee Jackie do, if he

Should never see her more?

Ay, light the lamp, and hang it up

At the window fair and free;

’T will be a beacon on the hill

To let your mother see.

And trim it well, my little Ann,

For the night is wet and cold,

And you know the weary, winding way

Across the miry wold.

All drench’d will be her simple gown,

And the wet will reach her skin:

I wish that I could wander down,

And the red quarry win,

To take the burden from her back,

And place it upon mine;

With words of cheerful condolence,

Not utter’d to repine.

You have a kindly mother, dears,

As ever bore a child,

And Heaven knows I love her well

In passion undefil’d.

Ah me! I never thought that she

Would brave a night like this,

While I sat weaving by the fire

A web of fantasies.

How the winds beat this home of ours

With arrow-falls of rain;

This lonely home upon the hill

They beat with might and main.

And ’mid the tempest one lone heart

Anticipates the glow,

Whence, all her weary journey done,

Shall happy welcome flow.

’T is after ten! O, were she here,

Young man although I be,

I could fall down upon her neck,

And weep right gushingly!

I have not lov’d her half enough,

The dear old toiling one,

The silent watcher by my bed,

In shadow or in sun.