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An old man sitting by the hearth,

Whose chin long silver hairs did girth,

Whose eyes sat deep for age and wear,

Would read or at the fire would stare.

 

In came his grandson rash and young,

His name round Earth keen to have flung,

And, knowing that his mother’s sire

Himself once traveled, felt the fire

Once in him of the traveler,

Asked if tips he had to confer,

Before he leaves the world to tour,

Before he heeds the world’s allure.

 

“I see,” said he on noticing

His grandson’s haste and blustering,

“That you are ready all to know

Which lies past home, and now to go;

And all that I may say thereto

Is: Go! Do see! Do learn! But you

Must also come to figure out

What travel’s really all about.

 

“When just as young, and likely more

Of a proud man, there was no shore

I did not trip on, and no folk

I did not greet; and I awoke

Then every week in a new place,

And every month, ‘mongst a new race;

And few things foreign I did not

Chance to see, nor fell to my lot.

 

“For instance, so spicy an apple

I bit in once, that scarce could grapple

My burning mouth with that inside:

I thought a coal through me did slide.

But the boy, who had offered it,

To eat three daily would see fit.

 

“And once in the most golden plains,

As I, through grass to wade, took pains,

In front of me stepped smooth and swift

A giant lion, which no shift

You’d make could hide you from or cover:

So fixed a gaze did he uncover.

With such disdain at me he stared,

No muscle once nor least I dared.

 

“And then, as if in his brute heart

A thing like pity chanced to start,

Continued he his way… perhaps

Where lies his throne, and his pride naps.

If fear exist, that I felt then;

If death have face, that was in ken.

 

“And once a town I wandered in

Of the most wondrous bustling din,

Where streets with busy commerce teemed,

And flowing rivers really seemed.

 

“If on a street at noon you’d stand

And, loosened all, forgo command

Of every limb, of every part,

The jostling crowd then well would start

To lift up you and bear along,

Their shoulders on, their heads among,

Like a strong rivulet does move

Through every ridge and every groove

A pebble fated to be caught

In its strong waves, and by them shot.

 

“But all of this, and more, much more,

You’ll live, and as fond memories store.

And then with haste you’ll come back home,

And tell the tales from when you’d roam

To your child, friend, and relatives

To claim that he who travels lives.

 

“They’ll laugh along, and babble too,

And nod to everything say you,

And then they’ll leave quite by and by

With drowsy eyes, or with a sigh,

To leave you telling your old tales

‘Til your hair’s gray, and your mind fails—”

 

What point of wisdom bore his speech,

Or what grave lesson he would teach,

The old man never got to say,

Nor even one last hug to lay;

For by the time he turned around,

His daughter’s son had then been bound

For town an hour, long having quit

His mother’s sire who by the hearth did sit.

Keven Balderas

Keven Balderas is a manager for a Houston-based staffing firm. Graduated in 2015 with a B.A. in Classics, and in 2020 with an MBA.

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