Tramps

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Oh, roses, roses everywhere but only one for me!
But one wild-rose for me, my boy, your face that's like the morn's;
My rose of roses, dear my lad, my dark-eyed Romany;
The world may keep its roses now, that gave me only thorns.

Oh, song and singing everywhere; the woods are wild with song:
One simple song I knew, my lad, you crooned it in my ears;
It cheered my way by night and day; but, oh, the way was long!
And all the hard world gave to me was evil words and sneers.

Oh, song and blossoms everywhere and nature full of love:
But one sweet look of love was mine, and that you gave, my joy:
A look of love, a look of trust they helped my heart enough;
They helped me bear the look of scorn, the world's black look, my boy.

Oh, spring and love are everywhere; soft breezes kiss and woo:
Your kiss was all I had, my son, to ease me of my woe:
But, oh, it helped me far, dear heart; how far I only knew:
But otherwise nor kiss nor smile, but only curse and blow.

But now I'm going to die, my boy; and now I'm going to rest;
The road was long, and tired am I; and only you will care:
Give me a kiss, O boy I bore! I did what I thought best:
But it was bad for me, my lad; O boy whom I did bear!

"Your father?" Ask me not of him! He was a tramp, a thief:
And I I was a country girl a wayward, so they say,
They kept too strict, perhaps, you see; and he, he brought relief:
I went with him, a woman tramp, and here I am to-day.

My dream of bliss was brief, ah me! Wild spring had played its part,
A vagabond part in vagabond blood that mates with any kind.
I woke one morn upon the straw with you upon my heart
The man was gone, my all was gone, and shame was left behind.

Since then I've tramped the road, my lad, and faced the rain and sun;
In snow and sleet I've trudged and begged, with you hugged in my arms:
Oh, few would give a wanton work, or kindly word, dear one!
A baby at her breast, you see they drove me from their farms.

Now you are big and strong, my boy; and you are twelve years young;
Oh, grasp your chance, when I am gone, and leave the past behind:
Perhaps by you, as 'tis your due, some fortune may be wrung
From what I missed in life and love, some good luck of some kind.

Now I am going to die, my boy; just lean me 'gainst that tree,
And dig my grave and lay me in and make no more delay;
Cut all the wildflowers down around, and throw them there, you see,
And bring a thorn and plant it here when I am laid away.

Perhaps you'll come again some day when you are big and grown,
And have a wife and boy yourself but do not let them know!
They might not understand it, lad; so you must come alone
And tell your mother how it goes, the one who loved you so.

'Tis birds and blossoms everywhere; and now, how strange! I see
How life and love are smiling down, O face that's like the morn's!
Come! lay me in my gipsy grave you dug beneath the tree,
Away from all the roses there and deep among the thorns.

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