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Collected Poems

Beggar to Burgher

Beggar to Burgher

I am a man defeated in his loins:
custom and law have hit me where I live.
Look me over. Laugh at me. Toss no coins.
I'm asking nothing, sir, that's yours to give.
You have no news to tell me, bad or good.
I know it all, what soul or body lacks.
I sweat, and sleep, and starve—or chop your wood
for tucker. When I go mad I fire your stacks.

Sir, here we are, the two of us, rich and poor,
I in my winter doss, or summer ditch,
you in your linen, comfortable, secure.
One of us should be envious—tell me which?

I am a man confounded. Yet my defeat
is something short of absolute. O bold
hunter, O proud proprietor, I repeat—
I'm asking nothing, sir, that's yours to withold.

Exhibit her proudly, the trophy of your chase,
like a horned head (true symbol of your power!),
but know that your corn-stack was our lying-place,
learn that the man of straw has had his hour.