Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > The New Poetry: An Anthology
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917.
56. Old Men Complaining
By Padraic Colum
First Old Man
    HE threw his crutched stick down: there came
    Into his face the anger flame,
    And he spoke viciously of one
    Who thwarted him—his son’s son.
    He turned his head away.—“I hate        5
    Absurdity of language, prate
    From growing fellows. We’d not stay
    About the house the whole of a day
        When we were young,
    Keeping no job and giving tongue!        10
    “Not us in troth! We would not come
    For bit or sup, but stay from home
    If we gave answers, or we’d creep
    Back to the house, and in we’d peep
    Just like a corncrake.        15
    “My grandson and his comrades take
    A piece of coal from you, from me
    A log, or sod of turf, maybe;
    And in some empty place they’ll light
    A fire, and stay there all night,        20
    A wisp of lads! Now understand
    The blades of grass under my hand
    Would be destroyed by company!
    There’s no good company: we go
    With what is lowest to the low!        25
    He stays up late, and how can he
    Rise early? Sure he lags in bed,
    And she is worn to a thread
    With calling him—his grandmother.
    She’s an old woman, and she must make        30
    Stir when the birds are half awake
    In dread he’d lose this job like the other!”
Second Old Man
    “They brought yon fellow over here,
    And set him up for an overseer:
    Though men from work are turned away        35
    That thick-necked fellow draws full pay—
    Three pounds a week…. They let burn down
    The timber yard behind the town
    Where work was good; though firemen stand
    In boots and brasses big and grand        40
    The crow of a cock away from the place.
    And with the yard they let burn too
    The clock in the tower, the clock I knew
    As well as I know the look in my face.”
Third Old Man
    “The fellow you spoke of has broken his bounds—
    He came to skulk inside of these grounds:
    Behind the bushes he lay down
    And stretched full hours in the sun.
    He rises now, and like a crane
    He looks abroad. He’s off again:        50
    Three pounds a week, and still he owes
    Money in every street he goes,
    Hundreds of pounds where we’d not get
    The second shilling of a debt.”
First Old Man
    “Old age has every impediment
    Vexation and discontent;
    The rich have more than we: for bit
    The cut of bread, and over it
    The scrape of hog’s lard, and for sup
    Warm water in a cup.        60
    But different sorts of feeding breaks
    The body more than fasting does
    With pains and aches.
    “I’m not too badly off, for I
    Have pipe and tobacco, a place to lie,        65
    A nook to myself; but from my hand
    Is taken the strength to back command—
    I’m broken, and there’s gone from me
    The privilege of authority.”
      I heard them speak—        70
      The old men heavy on the sod,
      Letting their angers come
      Between them and the thought of God.


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