The Thatcher – A Poem in Praise


The Thatcher

I talked with him upon the bridge,

A thin man bent and old,

“I crowned the roofs with gold,” he said’

“I crowned the roofs with gold.”

The glen had held him all his life

And it would hold him ever,

This weather-worn philosopher

Who watched with me the river.

The water, darkening at the bridge,

Flowed at its sleepy will,

And half-way up the mountain side

The oats were golden still.

He turned and watched the whole long glen

And I went with him watching.

Our eyes could strip the slates away

And I could see him thatching.

He’d lie up there the summer’s day,

His wise hands working over

The homely bundled oaten straw

That made the golden cover.

His small fork tucked the handfuls in,

Like little oat sheaves sleeping.

He’d guard them sweetly, safely, with

The sallies he’d been steeping.

And winds might blow and rain might fall,

His roof was warm and tight,

A benediction in the day,

A blessing in the night.

“The slates,” he said, “are useful things

But doleful to the view,

The glen without the thatch is not

The glen my boyhood knew.

I’d like to see the sunlight slant

Again on golden gables,

For the slates are cold as tombstones

But the straw was warm as cradles.

They paid for something more than all

The hours of work I sold –

For glory’s light in grudging fields.

I crowned the roofs with gold.”