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

A. C. Smith

The Waif

HE went into the bush, and passed

Out of the sight of living men,

None knows the nook that held him last,

None ever saw his face again.

It may be, in the wildering wood

He wandered, weary, spent of breath,

Till the all-mastering solitude

Sank to the deeper hush of death.

Perchance he crawled where the low bush,

More verdant, whispered streams were nigh,

Hopeful, but desperate, made a rush,

And found, O God! the bed was dry!

He was a waif, and friends had none;

Who knows but in some distant land

A mother mourns her errant son,

A sister longs to clasp his hand?

He was a waif, but with him died

A world of yearnings deep within—

Yearning to loftiest things allied,

But wrecked by cruel fate, or sin.

None heard the lone one’s dying prayer

Save Infinite Pity bending o’er,

Who, haply, bore him quietly where

They hunger and they thirst no more.

O ye vast woods! what fond life-dreams

Ye close! what broken lives ye hide!

Darkly absorbed, like hopeful streams,

That in dry desert lands subside.

Stranger the tales ye could unfold

Than wild romancer ever penned,

Remaining buried in the mould

Till time shall cease, and mystery end!