The White Wampum

by Emily Pauline Johnson


 

WORKWORN


 

ACROSS the street, an humble woman lives;
To her ’tis little fortune ever gives;
Denied the wines of life, it puzzles me
To know how she can laugh so cheerily.
This morn I listened to her softly sing,
5
And, marveling what this effect could bring
I looked: ’twas but the presence of a child
Who passed her gate, and looking in, had smiled.
But self-encrusted, I had failed to see
The child had also looked and laughed to me.
10
My lowly neighbour thought the smile God-sent,
And singing, through the toilsome hours she went.
O! weary singer, I have learned the wrong
Of taking gifts, and giving nought of song;
I thought my blessings scant, my mercies few,
15
Till I contrasted them with yours, and you;
To-day I counted much, yet wished it more—
While but a child’s bright smile was all your store,

If I had thought of all the stormy days,
That fill some lives that tread less favoured ways, [Page 37]
20
How little sunshine through their shadows gleamed,
My own dull life had much the brighter seemed;
If I had thought of all the eyes that weep
Through desolation, and still smiling keep,
That see so little pleasure, so much woe,
25
My own had laughed more often long ago;
If I had thought how leaden was the weight
Adversity lays at my kinsman’s gate,
Of that great cross my next door neighbour bears,
My thanks had been more frequent in my prayers;
30
If I had watched the woman o’er the way
Workworn and old, who labours day by day,
Who has no rest, no joy to call her own,
My tasks, my heart, had much the lighter grown. [Page 38]