Robert William Service (16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)
He had the grocer's counter-stoop,
That little man so grey and neat;
His moustache had a doleful droop,
He hailed me in the slushy street.
"I've sold my shop," he said to me,
Cupping his hand behind his ear.
"My deafness got so bad, you see,
Folks had to shout to make me hear."
He sighed and sadly shook his head;
The hand he gave was chill as ice.
"I sold out far too soon," he said;
"To-day I'd get ten times the price.
But then how was a man to know,
(The War, the rising cost of life.)
We have to pinch to make things go:
It's tough - I'm sorry for the wife.
"She looks sometimes at me with tears.
'You worked so hard,' I hear her say.
'You had your shop for forty years,
And you were honest as the day.'
Ah yes, I loved my shop, it's true;
My customers I tried to please;
But when one's deaf and sixty-two
What can one do in times like these?
"My savings, that I fondly thought
Would keep me snug when we were old,
Are melting fast - what once I bought
For silver, now is sought with gold.
The cost of life goes up each day;
I wonder what will be the end?"
He sighed, I saw him drift away
And thought: Alas for you, my friend!
and every day I see him stop
And look and look with wistful eye
At what was once his little shop,
Whose goods he can no longer buy.
Then homeward wearily he goes
To where his wife bed-ridden lies,
A driblet dangling from his nose. . . .
But Oh the panic in his eyes!
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