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(1802-1864 / USA)

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The Whip-Poor-Will.

Why dost thou come at set of sun,
Those pensive words to say?
Why whip poor Will?--What has he done?
And who is Will, I pray?

Why come from yon leaf-shaded hill,
A suppliant at my door?--
Why ask of me to whip poor Will?
And is Will really poor?

If poverty's his crime, let mirth
From his heart be driven:
That is the deadliest sin on earth,
And never is forgiven!

Art Will himself?--It must be so--
I learn it from thy moan,
For none can feel another's wo
As deeply as his own.

Yet wherefore strain thy tiny throat,
While other birds repose?
What means thy melancholy note?--
The mystery disclose!

Still 'Whip poor Will!'--Art thou a sprite,
From unknown regions sent
To wander in the gloom of night,
And ask for punishment?

Is thine a conscience sore beset
With guilt?--or, what is worse,
Hast thou to meet writs, duns, and debt--
No money in thy purse!

If this be thy hard fate indeed,
Ah! well may'st thou repine:
The sympathy I give I need--
The poet's doom is thine!

Art thou a lover, Will?--Has proved
The fairest can deceive?
This is the lot of all who've loved
Since Adam wedded Eve!

Hast trusted in a friend, and seen
No friend was he in need?
A common error--men still lean
Upon as frail a reed.

Hast thou, in seeking wealth or fame,
A crown of brambles won?
O'er all the earth 'tis just the same
With every mother's son!

Hast found the world a Babel wide,
Where man to Mammon stoops?
Where flourish Arrogance and Pride,
While modest Merit droops?

What, none of these?--Then, whence thy pain?
To guess it who's the skill?
Pray have the kindness to explain
Why should I whip poor Will?

Dost merely ask thy just desert?
What, not another word?--
Back to the woods again, unhurt--
I will not harm thee, bird!

But use thee kindly--for my nerves,
Like thine, have penance done:
'Use every man as he deserves,
Who shall 'scape whipping?'--None!

Farewell, poor Will!--Not valueless
This lesson by thee given:
'Keep thine own counsel, and confess
Thyself alone to Heaven!'

Submitted: Wednesday, October 06, 2010


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