A MAN long plagued with aches in joint and limb
Did all his neighbors recommended him,
But, despite that, could nowise gain
Deliverance from his pain.
An ancient dame, to whom he told his case,
Cut an oracular grimace,
And thus announced a magic remedy:
“You must,” said she,
Mysteriously hissing in his ear,
And calling him “My dear,”
“Sit on a good man’s grave at early light,
And with the dew fresh-fallen over night
Thrice bathe your hands, your knee-joints thrice:
’Twill cure you in a trice.
Remember her who gave you this advice.”
The patient did just as the grandam said.
(What will not mortals do to be
Relieved of misery?)
He went right early to the burying-ground,
And on a tombstone — ’twas the first he found —
These words, delighted, read:
“Stranger, what man he was who sleeps below,
This monument and epitaph may show.
The wonder of his time was he,
The pattern of most genuine piety;
22 And that thou all in a few words may’st learn,
Him church and school and town and country mourn.”
Here the poor cripple takes his seat,
And bathes his hands, his joints, his feet;
But all his labor’s worse than vain:
It rather aggravates his pain.
With troubled mind he grasps his staff,
Turns from the good man’s grave, and creeps
On to the next, where lowly sleeps
One honored by no epitaph.
Scarce had he touched the nameless stone,
When lo! each racking pain had flown;
His useless staff forgotten on the ground,
He leaves this holy grave, erect and sound.
“Ah!” he exclaimed, “is there no line to tell
Who was this holy man that makes me well?”
Just then the sexton did appear,
Of him he asked, “Pray, who lies buried here?”
The sexton waited long, and seemed quite shy
Of making any sort of a reply.
“Well,” he began at last with mournful sigh,
“The Lord forgive him, ’twas a man
Placed by all honest circles under ban;
Whom scarcely they allowed a decent grave;
Whose soul naught but a miracle might save;
A heretic, and, what is worse,
Wrote plays and verse!
In short, to speak my full conviction,
And without fear of contradiction,
23 He was an innovator and a scound—”
“No!” cried the man. “No, I’ll be bound!
Not so, though all the world the lie repeat!
But that chap there, who sleeps hard by us,
Whom you and all the world call pious,
He was, for sure, a scoundrel and a cheat!”