Johnny by Christina Rossetti
FOUNDED ON AN ANECDOTE OF THE FIRST FRENCH REVOLUTION.
Johnny had a golden head
Like a golden mop in blow,
Right and left his curls would spread
In a glory and a glow,
And they framed his honest face
Like stray sunbeams out of place.
Long and thick, they half could hide
How threadbare his patched jacket hung;
They used to be his Mother’s pride;
She praised them with a tender tongue,
And stroked them with a loving finger
That smoothed and stroked and loved to linger.
On a doorstep Johnny sat,
Up and down the street looked he;
Johnny did not own a hat,
Hot or cold tho’ days might be;
Johnny did not own a boot
To cover up his muddy foot.
Johnny’s face was pale and thin,
Pale with hunger and with crying;
For his Mother lay within,
Talked and tossed and seemed a-dying,
While Johnny racked his brains to think
How to get her help and drink,
Get her physic, get her tea,
Get her bread and something nice;
Not a penny piece had he,
And scarce a shilling might suffice;
No wonder that his soul was sad,
When not one penny piece he had.
As he sat there thinking, moping,
Because his Mother’s wants were many,
Wishing much but scarcely hoping
To earn a shilling or a penny,
A friendly neighbor passed him by
And questioned him: Why did he cry?
Alas! his trouble soon was told:
He did not cry for cold or hunger,
Though he was hungry both and cold;
He only felt more weak and younger,
Because he wished so to be old
And apt at earning pence or gold.
Kindly that neighbor was, but poor,
Scant coin had he to give or lend;
And well he guessed there needed more
Than pence or shillings to befriend
The helpless woman in her strait,
So much loved, yet so desolate.
One way he saw, and only one:
He would–he could not–give the advice,
And yet he must: the widow’s son
Had curls of gold would fetch their price;
Long curls which might be clipped, and sold
For silver, or perhaps for gold.
Our Johnny, when he understood
Which shop it was that purchased hair,
Ran off as briskly as he could,
And in a trice stood cropped and bare,
Too short of hair to fill a locket,
But jingling money in his pocket.
Precious money–tea and bread,
Physic, ease, for Mother dear,
Better than a golden head:
Yet our hero dropped one tear
When he spied himself close shorn,
Barer much than lamb new born.
His Mother throve upon the money,
Ate and revived and kissed her son:
But oh! when she perceived her Johnny,
And understood what he had done
All and only for her sake,
She sobbed as if her heart must break.