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

Bliss Carman 1861–1929

The Mendicants


WE are as mendicants who wait

Along the roadside in the sun.

Tatters of yesterday and shreds

Of morrow clothe us every one.

And some are dotards, who believe

And glory in the days of old;

While some are dreamers, harping still

Upon an unknown age of gold.

Hopeless or witless! Not one heeds,

As lavish Time comes down the way

And tosses in the suppliant hat

One great new-minted gold To-day.

Ungrateful heart and grudging thanks,

His beggar’s wisdom only sees

Housing and bread and beer enough;

He knows no other things than these.

O foolish ones, put by your care!

Where wants are many, joys are few;

And at the wilding springs of peace,

God keeps an open house for you.

But that some Fortunatus’ gift

Is lying there within his hand,

More costly than a pot of pearls,

His dulness does not understand.

And so his creature heart is filled;

His shrunken self goes starved away.

Let him wear brand-new garments still,

Who has a threadbare soul, I say.

But there be others, happier few,

The vagabondish sons of God,

Who know the by-ways and the flowers,

And care not how the world may plod.

They idle down the traffic lands,

And loiter through the woods with spring;

To them the glory of the earth

Is but to hear a bluebird sing.

They too receive each one his Day;

But their wise heart knows many things

Beyond the sating of desire,

Above the dignity of kings.

One I remember kept his coin,

And laughing flipped it in the air;

But when two strolling pipe-players

Came by, he tossed it to the pair.

Spendthrift of joy, his childish heart

Danced to their wild outlandish bars;

Then supperless he laid him down

That night, and slept beneath the stars.