Park Benjamin

(1809-1864 / USA)

The Old Sexton - Poem by Park Benjamin

Nigh to a grave that was newly made,
Leaned a sexton old on his earth-worn spade;
His work was done, and he paused to wait
The funeral train at the open gate.
A relic of bygone days was he,
And his locks were white as the foamy sea;
And these words came from his lips so thin:
'I gather them in: I gather them in.

'I gather them in! for man and boy,
Year after year of grief and joy,
I 've builded the houses that lie around,
In every nook of this burial ground;
Mother and daughter, father and son,
Come to my solitude, one by one:
But come they strangers or come they kin--
I gather them in, I gather them in.

'Many are with me, but still I'm alone,
I'm king of the dead--and I make my throne
On a monument slab of marble cold;
And my sceptre of rule is the spade I hold:
Come they from cottage or come they from hall,
Mankind are my subjects, all, all, all!
Let them loiter in pleasure or toilfully spin--
I gather them in, I gather them in.

'I gather them in, and their-final rest
Is here, down here, in earth's dark breast!'
And the sexton ceased, for the funeral train
Wound mutely o'er that solemn plain!
And I said to my heart, when time is told,
A mightier voice than that sexton's old
Will sound o'er the last trump's dreadful din--
'I gather them in, I gather them in.'

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, October 9, 2010

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