By Robert W. Service
Worms finer for fishing you couldn’t be wishing;
I delved them dismayed from the velvety sod;
The rich loam upturning I gathered them squirming,
big, fat, gleamy earthworms, all ripe for my rod.
Thinks I, without waiting, my hook I’ll be baiting,
And flip me a fish from the foam of the pool;
Then Mother beholding, came crying and scolding:
“You’re late, ye young devil! Be off to the school.”
So grabbing me bait—tin I dropped them fat worms in,
With globs of green turf for their comfort and cheer;
And there, clean forgotten, no doubt dead and rotten;
I left them to languish for nigh on a year.
One day to be cleaning the byre I was meaning,
When seeing that old rusty can on the shelf,
Says I: “To my thinking, them worms must be stinking:
Begorrah! I’d better find out for myself.”
So I opened the tin, held my nose and looked in;
And what did I see? Why, most nothing at all.
Just darkness and dank. and . . . a something that stank,
Tucked down in a corner, a greasy grey ball.
My worms —no, not dead, but thin as a thread,
Each seemed to reproach me, protesting its worth:
So softly I took them and tenderly shook them
Back into the bosom of mothering earth.
I’m now in the City; ’tis grand, but I pity
The weariful wretches that crawl in its grime;
The dregs and the scum and the spawn of the slum,
And the poor little children that’s cradled in crime.
Sure I see them in terms of my pitiful worms,
surviving despite desperation and doom,
And I wish I was God, with a smile and a nod
To set them all down in a valley of bloom,
Saying: “Let these rejoice with a wonderful voice
For mothering earth and for fathering sea,
And healing of sun, for each weariful one
Of these poor human worms is a wee bit of me. . . .
Let your be the blame and yours be the shame:
What ye do unto them ye do also to ME.”