“The Old Sexton” by Park Benjamin

The following poem was found on the back of the other poem I featured about a week ago from the book titled “Uncle Herbert’s Speaker.”  I guess W.R. Gray loved to read and write poetry.  I found the full poem on the Internet by googling and finding the 19th century editor of “An American Anthology” was Edmund Clarence Stedman. People back in W.R. Gray’s time dealt with risk and death, which is what this poem is about, death… However from the yellowed script I read an additional line, the very last line that was omitted which is: “Gather–gather–gather them in!”

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, 5
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, 10
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— 15
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: 20
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 25
Is here, down here, in the 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 30
Will sound o’er the last trump’s dreadful din—
“I gather them in, I gather them in.”

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