ENVOI TO THE JOURNAL OF JOHN WOOLMAN:
The Grave-Digger’s Speech
Shadows cast by the gambrel roof,
Perennial holly bush and weathered grave stone,
An ash coffin made plain,
His corpse wrapped in cheap flannel,
His wearing clothes offered to me,
Defraying the digging of his grave.
It boots not but goes against
Labouring people living their poverty.
Meanwhile death has paid another visiting call;
The procession is thin: servants to the rich,
A deaf girl, anxious widows, a barrister,
Whimpering dogs, a gypsy, one Irish
Home from the peat bogs, a broken-hipped poet.
How may I raise up children,
Pay rent for a small house, keep a cow,
Provide hay and grain, give my woman delicacies?
I round dirt upon the grave heap.
My sister, who stands here, says that this one took
Scruple on account of conscience.
A painful task, more likely to be avoided,
As it may easily be, but needful,
Pure love offered to all in plainness.
Attract a husband, I say, or live alone.
The dye stuffs of our lives will drain away;
There are few stones safe to step on.
For all of us, someone puts shovel to clay,
A new face in the retinue of the dead.
The rest is for people like him who stood,
My sister says, in perfect resignation to His will.
For us, my woman says, for us, for us, for us.