Thursday, May 8, 2014

Guilty or Not Guilty By Unknown Author

So I've got this poetry book that a coworker let me borrow at work. It is really worn. The cover is taped together and the spine of the book is worn and falling apart. There's a few loose pages because of this. The actual covering on the spine is completely detached and now rests in behind the cover before the first page. This is a loved book. It's a gem. There's a lot of great poems from a lot of great poets most of whom I've never heard of or, as in this case, are simply credited to "Unknown." Anyways, here's a poem.

Guilty or Not Guilty 

She stood at the bar of justice
A creature man and wild
In form too small for a woman
In feature too old for a child.
For a look so warm and pathetic
Was stamped on her pale young face,
It seemed long years of suffering
Must have left that silent trace.

"Your name," said the judge, as he eyed her,
With kindly look, yet keen.
"It's--" "Mary Maguire, if you please, sir."
"And your age?" "I am turned fifteen."
"Well, Mary,"--and then from a paper
He slowly and gravely read--
"You are charged here--I am sorry to say it--
With stealing three loaves of bread."

"You look not like an old offender,
And I hope that you can show
The charge to be false. Now, tell me
Are you guilty of this, or no?"
A passionate burst of weeping
Was at first her sole reply;
But she dried her tears in a moment,
And looked in the judge's eye.

"I will tell you just how it was, sir:
My father and Mother are dead,
And my little brothers and sisters
Were hungry, and asked me for bread.
At first I earned it for them,
By working hard all day,
But somehow the times were hard, sir,
And the work all fell away."

"I could get no more employment,
The weather was bitter cold;
The young ones cried and shivered
(Little Johnnie's but four years old);
So what was I to do, sir?
I am guilty, but do not condemn;
I took--O! was it stealing?--
The bread to give to them."

Every man in the courtroom--
Graybeard and thoughtless youth--
Knew, as he looked upon her,
that the prisoner spoke the truth.
Out from their pockets came kerchiefs,
Out from their eyes sprung tears,
And out form old, faded wallets
Treasures hoarded for years.

The judge's face was  a study,
The strangest you ever saw,
As he cleared his throat and murmured
Something about the law.
For one so learned in such matters,
So wise in dealing with men,
He seemed, on a simple question,
Sorely puzzled just then.

No one blamed him, or wondered
when at last these words they heard.
"The sentence of this young prisoner
Is for the present deferred."
And no one blamed him or wondered
when he went to her and smiled,
And tenderly led from the court room.
Himself, the "guilty" child!

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