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Poem by Thomas MacDonagh


The Man Upright


I once spent an evening in a village
Where the people are all taken up with tillage,
Or do some business in a small way
Among themselves, and all the day
Go crooked, doubled to half their size,
Both working and loafing, with their eyes
Stuck in the ground or in a board,--
For some of them tailor, and some of them hoard
Pence in a till in their little shops,
And some of them shoe-soles -- they get the tops
Ready-made from England, and they die cobblers--
All bent up double, a village of hobblers
And slouchers and squatters, whether they straggle
Up and down, or bend to haggle
Over a counter, or bend at a plough,
Or to dig with a spade, or to milk a cow,
Or to shove the goose-iron stiffly along
The stuff on the sleeve-board, or lace the fong
In the boot on the last, or to draw the wax-end
Tight cross-ways -- and so to make or to mend
What will soon be worn out by the crooked people.
The only thing straight in the place was the steeple,
I thought at first.  I was wrong in that;
For there past the window at which I sat
Watching the crooked little men
Go slouching, and with the gait of a hen
An odd little woman go pattering past,
And the cobbler crouching over his last
In the window opposite, and next door
The tailor squatting inside on the floor--
While I watched them, as I have said before,
And thought that only the steeple was straight,
There came a man of a different gait--
A man who neither slouched nor pattered,
But planted his steps as if each step mattered;
Yet walked down the middle of the street
Nor like a policeman on his beat,
But like a man with nothing to do
Except walk straight upright like me and you.



Thomas MacDonagh


Thomas MacDonagh's other poems:
  1. Barbara: Born 24th March, 1915
  2. I Heard a Music Sweet To-day
  3. To a Wise Man
  4. In an Island
  5. A Song of Another. For Eoghan


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