Christopher Pearse Cranch

(1815-1892 / the USA)

An Old Umbrella


AN old umbrella in the hall,
Battered and baggy, quaint and queer;
By all the rains of many a year
Bent, stained, and faded — that is all.
Warped, broken, twisted by the blast
Of twenty winters, till at last,
Like some poor close-reefed schooner cast,
All water-logged, with half a mast,
Upon the rocks — it finds a nook
Of shelter on an entry hook: —
Old battered craft — how came you here?
Ah, could it speak, 't would tell of one —
Old Simon Dowles, who now is gone —
Gone where the weary are at rest;
Of one who locked within its breast
His private sorrows o'er his lot,
And in his humble work forgot
That he was but a toiling bark
Upon the billows in the dark,
While the brave newer ships swept by
Sailing beneath a prosperous sky,
And winged with opportunities
Fate had denied to hands like his.
A plain, old-fashioned wight was he
As these sport-loving days could see;
He in his youth had loved and lost
His loyal true-love. Ever since
His lonely life was flecked and crossed
By sorrow's nameless shadow-tints.
Yet never a murmur from his lips
Told of his darkened soul's eclipse.
I often think I still can hear
His voice so blithe, his tones of cheer,
As, dropping in to say 'good-day,'
He gossiped in his old man's way.
And yet we laughed when he had gone.
We youngsters could n't understand —
No matter if it rained or shone,
He held the umbrella in his hand.
Or if he set it in the hall,
Where other shedders of the rain
Stood dripping up against the wall,
His was too shabby and too plain
To tempt exchange. All passed it by,
Though showers of rain were pouring down
And all the gutters of the town
Were torrents in the darkening sky.
He never left it once behind
Save the last time he crossed our door.
Oblivious shadows o'er his mind
Presaged his failing strength. Before
The morning he had passed away
In peaceful sleep from night to day.
And here the old brown umbrella still
In its old corner stays to fill
The place, as best it may, of him
Who on this wild and wintry night
Is surely with the saints of light —
For whom my eyes grow moist and dim
While I this simple rhyme indite.

Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010

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