Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Contrast


"Carry your suitcase, Sir?" he said.
I turned away to hide a grin,
For he was shorter by a head
Than I and pitiably thin.
I could have made a pair of him,
So with my load I stoutly legged;
But his tenacity was grim:
"Please let me help you, sir," he begged.

I could not shake the fellow off,
So let him shoulder my valise;
He tottered with a racking cough
That did not give him any peace.
He lagged so limply in my wake
I made him put the burden down,
Saying: "A taxi I will take,"
And grimly gave him half-a-crown.

Poor devil! I am sure he had
Not eaten anything that day;
His eyes so hungrily were glad,
Although his lips were ashen grey.
He vanished in the callous crowd,
Then when he was no more around,
I lugged my bag and thought aloud:
"I wish I'd given him a pound."

And strangely I felt sore ashamed,
As if somehow I had lost face;
And not only myself I blamed
But all the blasted human race;
And all this life of battle where
The poor are beaten to their knees,
And while the weak the burdens bear,
Fat fools like me can stroll at ease.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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