By Robert William Service

I met upon a narrow way,
Dead weary from his toil,
A fellow warped and gnarled and grey,
Who reeked of sweat and soil.
His rags were readyful to rot,
His eyes were dreary dim;
Yet . . . yet I had the humble thought
To raise my hat to him.

For thinks I: It’s the likes of him
That makes the likes of me;
With horny hand and lagging limb
He slaves to keep me free;
That I may have a golden time,
And praise the Lord on high,
Life grinds into the bloody grime
A better man than I.

Yet if in sheer humility
I yield this yokel place,
Will he not think it mockery
And spit into my face,
Saying: “How can you care a damn,
As now my way you bar,
When it’s because of what I am,
You, Sir, are what you are?”

But no, he did not speak like that,
Nor homage did I pay;
I did not lift my bowler hat
To greet his common clay;
Instead, he made me feel an ass,
As most respectfully
He stepped aside to let me pass,
And raised his cap to ME.

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