The great big church wus crowded full uv broadcloth an’ uv silk.
An’ satin rich as cream that grows on our ole Brindle’s milk;
Shined boots, b’iled shirts, dickeys an’ stovepipe hats were there.
An’ doods ‘ith trouserloons so tight they couldn’t kneel down in prayer.
The elder, in his poolpit high, said as he slowly riz:
“our organist is kep’ to hum, laid up ‘ith rheumatiz,
An’ as we hev no substitoot, as Brother Moore ain’t here,
Will some’un in the congregation be so kind’s to volunteer?”
An’ then a red-nosed drunken tramp of low an’ rowdy style
Give an introductory hiccup an’ then staggered up the aisle.
Then thro’ thet holy atmosphere there crep’ a sense ov sin.
An’ thro’ thet air uv sanctity the odor uv ole gin.
Then Deacon Purington he yelled, his teeth all set on edge;
“This man perfanes the house uv God, W’y, this is sacrilege!”
The tramp didn’t hear a word he said, but slouched ‘ith stumbling feet,
An’ sprawled an’ staggered up the stairs an’ gained the organ seat.
He then went pawin’ thro’ the keys, an’ soon there rose a strain
That seemed to jest bulge out the heart an’ ‘lectrify the brain.
An’ then he slapped down on the thing ‘ith hands an’ head an’ knees;
He slam dashed his whole body down kerflop upon the keys.
The organ roared, the music flood went sweepin’ high an’ dry;
It swelled into the rafters an, bulged out into the sky.
The old church shook an’ staggered and seemed to reel an’ sway,
An’ the elder shouted “Glory!” an’ I yelled out “Hooray!”
An’ then he tried a tender strain that melted in our ears,
That brought up blessed memories and drenched ‘em down ‘ith tears;
An’ we dreamed of old-time kitchens, ‘ith Tabby on the mat,
Uv home an’ love and baby-days, an’ mother an’ all that.
An’ then he struck a streak of hope, a song from souls forgiven,
They burst the prison bars uv sin an’ stormed the gates of Heaven;
The morning stars they sung together, no soul wus left alone,
We felt the universe was safe an’ God wus on His throne.
An’ then a wail of deep despair and darkness came again,
An’ long black crepe hung on the door uv all the homes of men;
No luv, no light, no joy, no hope, no songs uv glad delight,
An’ then – the tramp he staggered down and reeled into the night.
But he knew he’d tol’ his story, though he never spoke a word,
An’ wuz the saddest story that our ears had ever heard;
He hed tol’ his own life history, an’ no eye wuz dry that day,
When the elder rose an’ simply said, “My brethren, let us pray!”
Sam Walter Foss