The beggars on sidewalks suffer less;
They herd all together, clan and clan;
Alike and equal in wretchedness,
No room for pride between man and man.
Nothing to lose by rags or by dirt,
More often something is gained instead;
Nothing to fear but bodily hurt,
Nothing to hope for save daily bread.
But respectable poor have all to lose;
For the world to know, means loss and shame;
They'd rather die, if they had to choose;
They cling as for life to place and name,—
Cling, and pretend, and conceal and hide;
Never an hour but its terror bears;
Terror which slinks like guilt to one side,
And often a guiltier countenance wears.
"Respectably dressed" to the last; ay, last!
Last dollar, last crust, last proud pulse-beat;
Starved body, starved soul, hope dead and past:
What wonder that any death looks sweet?
"An unknown man, respectably dressed,"
That was all that the record said.
When will the question let us rest,—
Is it fault of ours that the man was dead?
You may talk of horses of renown,
What Goldsmith Maid has done,
How Dexter cut the seconds down,
And Fellowcraft's great run:
Would you hear about a horse that once
A mighty battle won?