Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
IV. Comfort and Cheer
Aunt Phillis’s Guest
William Channing Gannett (1840–1923)
St. Helena Island, South Carolina, in 1863

I WAS young and “Harry” was strong,
The summer was bursting from sky and plain,
Thrilling our blood as we bounded along,—
When a picture flashed, and I dropped the rein.
A black sea-creek, with snaky run        5
Slipping through low green leagues of sedge,
An ebbing tide, and a setting sun;
A hut and a woman by the edge.
Her back was bent and her wool was gray;
The wrinkles lay close on the withered face;        10
Children were buried and sold away,—
The Freedom had come to the last of a race!
She lived from a neighbor’s hominy-pot;
And praised the Lord, if “the pain” passed by;
From the earthen floor the smoke curled out        15
Through shingles patched with the bright blue sky.
“Aunt Phillis, you live here all alone?”
I asked, and pitied the gray old head;
Sure as a child, in quiet tone,
“Me and Jesus, Massa,” she said.        20
I started, for all the place was aglow
With a presence I had not seen before;
The air was full of a music low,
And the Guest Divine stood at the door!
Ay, it was true that the Lord of Life,        25
Who seeth the widow give her mite,
Had watched this slave in her weary strife,
And shown himself to her longing sight.
The hut and the dirt, the rags and the skin,
The grovelling want and the darkened mind,—        30
I looked on this; but the Lord, within:
I would what he saw was in me to find!
A childlike soul, whose faith had force
To see what the angels see in bliss:
She lived, and the Lord lived; so, of course,        35
They lived together,—she knew but this.
And the life that I had almost despised
As something to pity, so poor and low,
Had already borne fruit that the Lord so prized
He loved to come near and see it grow.        40
No sorrow for her that life was done:
A few more days of the hut’s unrest,
A little while longer to sit in the sun,—
Then—He would be host, and she would be guest!
And up above, if an angel of light        45
Should stop on his errand of love some day
To ask, “Who lives in the mansion bright?”
“Me and Jesus,” Aunt Phillis will say.
A fancy, foolish and fond, does it seem?
And things are not as Aunt Phillises dream?        50
        Friend, surely so!
        For this I know,—
That our faiths are foolish by falling below,
Not coming above, what God will show;
That his commonest thing hides a wonder vast,        55
To whose beauty our eyes have never passed;
That his face in the present, or in the to-be,
Outshines the best that we think we see.

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