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A Loafer

 I hang about the streets all day,
At night I hang about;
I sleep a little when I may,
But rise betimes the morning's scout;
For through the year I always hear
Afar, aloft, a ghostly shout.
My clothes are worn to threads and loops; My skin shows here and there ; About my face like seaweed droops My tangled beard, my tangled hair; From cavernous and shaggy brows My stony eyes untroubled stare.
I move from eastern wretchedness Through Fleet Street and the Strand; And as the pleasant people press I touch them softly with my hand, Perhaps I know that still I go Alive about a living land.
For far in front the clouds are riven I hear the ghostly cry, As if a still voice fell from heaven To where sea-whelmed the drowned folk lie In sepulchres no tempest stirs And only eyeless things pass by.
In Piccadilly spirits pass: Oh, eyes and cheeks that glow! Oh, strength and comeliness! Alas, The lustrous health is earth I know From shrinking eyes that recognise No brother in my rags and woe.
I know no handicraft, no art, But I have conquered fate; For I have chosen the better part, And neither hope, nor fear, nor hate.
With placid breath on pain and death, My certain alms, alone I wait.
And daily, nightly comes the call, The pale unechoing note, The faint "Aha!" sent from the wall Of heaven, but from no ruddy throat Of human breed or seraph's seed, A phantom voice that cries by rote.

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