The Singer's Alms

Henry Abbey


In Lyons, in the mart of that French town,
Years since, a woman, leading a fair child,
Craved a small alms of one who, walking down
The thoroughfare, caught the child's glance, and smiled
To see, behind its eyes, a noble soul.
He paused, but found he had no coin to dole.

His guardian angel warned him not to lose
This chance of pearl to do another good;
So as he waited, sorry to refuse
The asked-for penny, there aside he stood,
And with his hat held as by limb the nest
He covered his kind face, and sang his best.

The sky was blue above, and all the lane
Of commerce where the singer stood was filled,
And many paused, and, listening, paused again,
To hear the voice that through and through them thrilled.
I think the guardian angel helped along
That cry for pity woven in a song.

The singer stood between the beggars there,
Before a church, and, overhead, the spire,
A slim, perpetual finger in the air
Held toward heaven, land of the heart's desire,
As if an angel, pointing up, had said,
"Yonder a crown awaits this singer's head."

The hat of its stamped brood was emptied soon
Into the woman's lap, who drenched with tears
Her kiss upon the hand of help: 't was noon,
And noon in her glad heart drove forth her fears.
The singer, pleased, passed on, and softly thought,
"Men will not know by whom this deed was wrought."

But when at night he came upon the stage,
Cheer after cheer went up from that wide throng,
And flowers rained on him: naught could assuage
The tumult of the welcome, save the song
The he had sweetly sung, with covered face,
For the two beggars in the market-place.