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Poem by John Townsend Trowbridge


Old Man Gram


In little Gram Court lives old man Gram,
The patriarch of the place;
Where often you'll see his face,
Eager and greedy, peering about,
As he goes bustling in and out,
At a wriggling, rickety pace,
Brisk octogenarian's pace.
He rattles his stick at my heels, and brags
As he comes shuffling along the flags,
Brags of his riches and brags of his rags,
Much work and little play.
"You see where I am," says old man Gram,
"You see where I am to-day!

"I came to town at twelve years old,
With a shilling in this 'ere pocket,"
You should see him chuckle and knock it!
"The town to me was a big stout chest,
With fortunes locked in the till, but I guessed
A silver key would unlock it,
My little key would unlock it!
I found in a rag-shop kept by a Jew
A place to sleep and a job to do,
And managed to make my shilling two;
And that's always been my way.
Now see where I am," cries old man Gram,
"Now see where I am to-day!"

In his den a-top of the butcher's shop,
He lies in his lair of husks,
And sups on gruels and rusks,
And a bone now and then, to pick and gnaw,
With hardly a tooth in his tough old jaw,
But a couple of curious tusks,
Ah, picturesque, terrible tusks!
Though half Gram Court he calls his own,
Here, hoarding his rents, he has lived alone,
Until, like a hungry wolf, he has grown
Gaunt and shaggy and gray.
"You see where I am," growled old man Gram,
As I looked in to-day.

I might have a wife to make my broth,
Which would be convenient, rather!
And younkers to call me father;
But a wife would be after my chink, you see,
Andbantlings for them that like!" snarls he;
"I never would have the bother;
They're an awful expense and bother!
I went to propose at fifty-four,
But stopped as I raised my hand to the door;
'To think of a dozen brats or more!'
Says I, and I turned away.
Now see where I am," brags old man Gram,
"Only see where I am to-day!

"I had once niece, who came to town
As poor as any church mouse;
She wanted to keep my house!
'Tut! I have no house to keep! go back!'
I gave her a dollar and told her to pack;
At which she made such a touse
You never did see such a touse!
Whole rows of houses were mine, she said;
I had more bank shares than hairs in my head,
And gold like so much iron or lead
All which I could n't gainsay.
Men see where I am," grins old man Gram;
"They see where I am to-day.

"But if there is anything I detest,
And for which I have no occasion,
Sir, it's a poor relation !
They're always plenty, and always in need;
Take one, and soon you will have to feed
Just about half the nation;
They'll swarm from all over the nation!
And I have a rule, though it's nothing new:
'T is a lesson I learned from my friend, the Jew:
Whatever I fancy, whatever I do,
I always ask, Will it pay?
Now see where I am," boasts old man Gram,
"Just see where I am to-day!"

The little boys dread his coming tread,
They are pale as he passes by;
And the sauciest curs are shy,
His stick is so thick, and he looks so grim;
Not even a beggar will beg of him,
You should hear him mention why!
There's a very good reason why.
The poor he hates, and he has n't a friend,
And none but a fool will give or lend;
"For, only begin, there'll be no end;
That 's what I always say.
Now see where I am," crows old man Gram,
"Just see where I am to-day!"

His miserly gain is the harvest-grain,
All the rest is chaff and stubble;
And the life beyond is a bubble:
We are as the beasts: and he thinks, on the whole,
It's quite as well that he has no soul,
For that might give him trouble,
Might give him a deal of trouble!
The long and short of the old man's creed,
Is to live for himself and to feed his greed:
The world is a very good world indeed,
If only a chap might stay;
"Only stay where I am," whines old man Gram,
"Stay just where I am to-day!"



John Townsend Trowbridge


John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. Dorothy in the Garret
  2. Providence
  3. The Old Man of the Mountains under the Moon and Stars
  4. The Pewee
  5. The Old Burying-Ground


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