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I saw a Man before me unawares :
The oldest man he seemed that ever wore gray
As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence,
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense; –
Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself ; —
Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep, in his extreme old age :
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in life's pilgrimage ;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.
Himself he propped, limbs, body, and pale face,
Upon a long gray staff of shaven wood:
And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Upon the margin of that moorish flood
Motionless as a cloud the old Man stood,
That heareth not the loud winds when they call,
And moveth all together, if it move at all.
At length, himself unsettling, he the pond
Stirred with his staff, and fixedly did look
Upon that muddy water, which he conned,
As if he had been reading in a book :
And now a stranger's privilege I took ;
And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
“ This morning gives us promise of a glorious day.”
A gentle answer did the old Man make,
In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew;
And him with further words I thus bespake:
“ What occupation do you there pursue ?
This is a lonesome place for one like you."
Ere he replied, a flash of mild surprise
Broke from the sable orbs of his yet vivid eyes.
XIV. His words came feebly, from a feeble chest, But each in solemn order followed each, With something of a lofty utterance drest, — Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach Of ordinary men; a stately speech; Such as grave Livers do in Scotland use, Religious men, who give to God and man their dues.
He told, that to these waters he had come
To gather leeches, being old and poor :
Employment hazardous and wearisome !
And he had many hardships to endure:
From pond to pond he roamed, from moor to moor;
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance;
And in this way he gained an honest maintenance.
The old Man still stood talking by my side ;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.
XVII. My former thoughts returned : the fear that kills ; And hope that is unwilling to be fed ; Cold, pain, and labor, and all fleshly ills ; And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
– Perplexed, and longing to be comforted, My question eagerly did I renew, “ How is it that you live, and what is it you do ?"
He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said, that, gathering leeches, far and wide
He travelled ; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the pools where they abide.
“ Once I could meet with them on every side ;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."
XIX. While he was talking thus, the lonely place, The old Man's shape, and speech, — all troubled
me : In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace About the weary moors continually, Wandering about alone and silently. While I these thoughts within myself pursued, He, having made a pause, the same discourse
And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanor kind,
But stately in the main ; and when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn, to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
“ God,” said I, “be my help and stay secure;
I 'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely
“THERE is a Thorn, — it looks so old,
In truth, you'd find it hard to say
How it could ever have been young,
It looks so old and gray.
Not higher than a two years' child
It stands erect, this aged Thorn;
No leaves it has, no prickly points ;
It is a mass of knotted joints,
A wretched thing forlorn.
It stands erect, and like a stone
With lichens is it overgrown.
II. “ Like rock or stone, it is o'ergrown With lichens to the very top, And hung with heavy tufts of moss, A melancholy crop : Up from the earth these mosses creep, And this poor Thorn they clasp it round So close, you 'd say that they are bent With plain and manifest intent To drag it to the ground; And all have joined in one endeavor To bury this poor Thorn for ever.