The Old Sexton

I cannot decide if “where” in the sixth line of Verse 1 is a typo or meant to indicate pronunciation. So, I have left it. “Train” here is used in the sense of “procession”.

Verse 1:
Nigh to a grave that was newly made,
Lean’d a sexton old on his earth-worn spade;
His work was done, and he paused to wait
The funeral train thro’ the open gate;
A relic of bygone days was he,
And his locks where white as the foamy sea;
And these words came from his lips so thin:
“I gather them in,”
“I gather them in, gather, gather, gather,
I gather them in.”

Verse 2:
I gather them in! for man and boy,
Year after year of grief and joy;
I’ve builded the houses that lie around,
In ev’ry nook of this burial ground;
Mother and daughter, father and son,
Come to my solitude one by one;
But come they strangers, or come they kin,
“I gather them in,”
“I gather them in, gather, gather, gather,
I gather them in.”

Verse 3:
Many are with me, but still I’m alone;
I’m king of the dead and I make my throne
On a monument slab of marble cold,
And my sceptre of rule is the spade I hold;
Come they from cottage or come they from hall,
Mankind are my subjects all, all, all!
Let them loiter in pleasure, or toilfully spin,
“I gather them in,”
“I gather them in, gather, gather, gather,
I gather them in.”

Verse 4:
“I gather them in! and their final rest
Is here, down here, in the earth’s dark breast.”
And the sexton ceas’d for the funeral train
Wound mutely o’er that solemn plain;
And I said to my heart when time is told,
A mightier voice than that sexton’s old,
Will sound o’er the last trump’s dreadful din!
“I gather them in,”
“I gather them in, gather, gather, gather,
I gather them in.”

Park Benjamin/Henry Russell

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