The Wandering Pole

By Hannah Flagg Gould

A wanderer over a stranger land,
With a houseless head and an empty hand,
A brow of care and a heart of grief,
He came to my door and asked relief,
While, few and foreign his accents fell
From a faltering tongue his wants to tell.
The vesture that mantled his wasted form,
Was little to shield it from cold or storm,
As slowly ‘t was borne by the halting limb
The arm of the Russian had given to him
When, deep in his forehead the scar was sunk,
That showed where the lance at his veins had drunk.
And, traced in his visage, I clearly viewed
The marks of a mind by woe subdued—
A wounded spirit compelled to bear
A weary burden of pain and care;
Though man in his might had striven, and failed
To conquer the soul that his power assailed.
I’d learnt the story of POLAND’S wrongs,
From writer, and speaker, and minstrel songs;
When every breeze that had swelled a sail
Had seemed to waft me the piteous tale,
The mortal groan, or the parting breath
Of those it had left on her fields of death.
I’d heard of her matrons, who nobly sold
Their fine-wrought vessels of silver and gold;
Of her beautiful maidens, who robbed their hair
Of the costly gems that were glittering there
For brother, or lover, or son, to buy
The arms they had borne to the fight, to die.
Her fearless struggle, her hopeless fall,
Her exiled sons; I had heard of all;
But never had seen her fate before,
As pictured in him, who had reached my door;
His looks, like an orphan’s, so sadly said
Of his own dear country, ‘My mother is dead!’
And could AMERICA’S child behold
A sight like this, with a heart so cold
It would not melt, and a balsam flow
In word and deed, till the stranger’s woe
Was softened, if pity and human skill
May reach the spirit’s deep-seated ill?
But still did I feel how poor and vain
Was human effort to lull the pain
Of him, whom the sleep of the grave alone
Could make to forget the joys he’d known
And lost for ever; on time’s bleak shore
To find home, kindred, and friends no more.
I knew, if backward his eye was cast,
What fearful visions before it passed.
If onward, how lonely, rude and drear
The path to the end of his journey here,
While Hope had nought to his breast to bring,
And Memory only applied her sting.
I almost prayed, as be turned away,
The FRIEND of the friendless to speed the day,
When he should be laid in his final rest;
To give, in his mansions, among the blest,
A home to the great and suffering soul,
That spoke from the eye of the WANDERING POLE.

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