by Irwin Russell
In the church-yard, up in the old high town,
The sexton stood at his daily toil,
And he lifted his mattock, and drove it down,
And sunk it deep in the sacred soil.
And then as he delved he sang right lustily,
Aye as he deepened and shaped the graves
In the black old mold that smeiled so mustily,
And thus was the way of the sexton's staves:
It's nine o' the clock, and I have begun
The settled task that is daily mine;
By ten o' the clock I will finish one,
By six o' the clock there must be nine:
" Just three for women, and three for men,
And, to fill the number, another three
For daughters of women and sons of men
Who men or women shall never be.
" And the first of the graves in a row of three
Is his or hers who shall first appear;
All lie in the order they come to me,
And such has been ever the custom here. "
The first they brought was a fair young child,
And they saw him buried and went their way;
And the sexton leaned on his spade and smiled,
And wondered, " How many more to-day? "
The next was a man; then a woman came:
The sexton had loved her in years gone by;
But the years had gone, and the dead old dame
He buried as deep as his memory.
As six o' the clock his task was done;
Eight graves were closed, and the ninth prepared —
Made ready to welcome a man — what one
'T was little the grim old sexton cared.
He sat him down on its brink to rest,
When the clouds were red and the sky was gray,
And said to himself: " This last is the best
And deepest of all I have digged to-day.
" Who will fill it, I wonder, and when?
It does not matter: whoe'er they be,
The best and the worst of the race of men
Are all alike when they come to me. "
They went to him with a man, next day,
When the sky was gray and the clouds were red,
As the sun set forth on his upward way;
They went — and they found the sexton dead.
Dead, by the open grave, was he;
And they buried him in it that self-same day,
And marveled much such a thing should be;
And since, the people will often say:
If ye dig, no matter when,
Graves to bury other men,
Think — il never can be known
When ye'll chance to dig your own.
Mind ye of the iale ye know —
Nine graves in Edinbro.
Last updated September 05, 2017