Within the precincts of a hospital,
I wandered in a sympathetic mood;
Where face to face with wormwood and with gall,
With wrecks of pain and stern vicissitude,
The eye unused to human misery
Might view life's undercurrent vividly.
My gaze soon rested on the stricken form
Of one succumbing to the fever's drouth,
With throbbing brow intolerably warm,
With wasted lips and mute appealing mouth;
And when I watched that prostrate figure there
I thought that fate must be the worst to bear.
I next beheld a thin but patient face,
Aged by the constant twinge of hopeless pain,
Wheeled in an easy chair from place to place,
A form which ne'er might stand erect again;
I viewed that human shipwreck in his chair,
And thought a fate like that was worst to bear.
Within her room a beauteous maiden lay,
Moaning in agony no words express,
A cancer eating rapidly away
Her vital force,--so foul and pitiless;
And when I saw that face, so young and fair,
I thought such anguish was the worst to bear.
A helpless paralytic met my eyes,
Whose hands might never grasp a friendly hand,
But hung distorted and of shrunken size,
Insensible to muscular command;
His face an abject picture of despair;
I thought a fate like that was worst to bear.
With wasted form, emaciate and wan,
A pale consumptive coughed with labored breath,
His sunken eyes and hectic flush upon
His cheek, foretold a sure but lingering death;
I thought, whene'er I met his hollow stare,
A wasting death like that was worst to bear.
That day with fetters obdurate and fast,
With chain of summer, winter, spring and fall,
Is bounden to the dim receding past;
Time o'er my life has spread a somber pall,
With sightless eyes I grope and clutch the air,
My lot is now the hardest lot to bear.