"A True Story." by Ann Taylor (1782-1866)
And as they pass'd by the great house of a Lord,
A beautiful chariot there came,
To take some most elegant ladies abroad,
Who straightway got into the same.
The ladies in feathers and jewels were seen,
The chariot was painted all o'er,
The footmen behind were in silver and green,
The horses were prancing before.
Little Ann by her mother walk'd silent and sad,
A tear trickled down from her eye,
Till her mother said, "Ann, I should be very glad
To know what it is makes you cry. "
"Mamma," said the child, "see that carriage so fair,
All cover'd with varnish and gold,
Those ladies are riding so charmingly there
While we have to walk in the cold.
"You say GOD is kind to the folks that are good,
But surely it cannot be true;
Or else I am certain, almost, that He would
Give such a fine carriage to you. "
"Look there, little girl," said her mother, "and see
What stands at that very coach door;
A poor ragged beggar, and listen how she
A halfpenny tries to implore.
"All pale is her face, and deep sunk is her eye,
And her hands look like skeleton's bones;
She has got a few rags, just about her to tie,
And her naked feet bleed on the stones. "
'Dear ladies,' she cries, and the tears trickle down,
'Relieve a poor beggar, I pray;
I've wander'd all hungry about this wide town,
And not ate a morsel to-day.
'My father and mother are long ago dead,
My brother sails over the sea,
And I've scarcely a rag, or a morsel of bread,
As plainly, I'm sure, you may see.
'A fever I caught, which was terrible bad,
But no nurse or physic had I;
An old dirty shed was the house that I had,
And only on straw could I lie.
'And now that I'm better, yet feeble and faint,
And famish'd, and naked, and cold,
I wander about with my grievous complaint,
And seldom get aught but a scold.
'Some will not attend to my pitiful call,
Some think me a vagabond cheat;
And scarcely a creature relieves me, of all
The thousands that traverse the street.
'Then ladies, dear ladies, your pity bestow:'–
Just then a tall footman came round,
And asking the ladies which way they would go,
The chariot turn'd off with a bound.
"Ah! see, little girl," then her mother replied,
"How foolish those murmurs have been;
You have but to look on the contrary side,
To learn both your folly and sin.
"This poor little beggar is hungry and cold,
No mother awaits her return;
And while such an object as this you behold,
Your heart should with gratitude burn.
"Your house and its comforts, your food and your friends,
'Tis favour in GOD to confer,
Have you any claim to the bounty He sends,
Who makes you to differ from her?
"A coach, and a footman, and gaudy attire,
Give little true joy to the breast;
To be good is the thing you should chiefly desire,
And then leave to GOD all the rest. "