The poor man's grave! this is the spot
Where rests his weary clay;
And yet no gravestone lifts its head,
To say what gravestones say;
No sculptured emblems blason here,
No weeping willows wave,
No faint memorial, e’er so faint.
Points out the poor man’s grave!
No matter—he as soundly sleeps,
As softly does repose,
Though marbled urn around his grave
No idle incense throws!
His lowly turf it burdens not,
Yet that is ever green.
And hopping near it oft at morn,
The little redbreast's seen!
For none disturbs the poor man's grave –
To touch it who would dare,
Save some kind hand to smooth the grass,
That grows all wildly there!
The poor man’s grave! – call it his home -
From sorrow all secure—
For woe and want vex him no more,
Whom fortune stamped as poor!
The poor man’s grave! — a lesson learn,
And profit by't who can —
Here lies a man all nobly poor,
And yet an honest man!
He was a man well known for worth,
But all unknown to fame;
And yet within his village bounds,
He did not lack a name!
For all the village came to him,
When they had need to call;
His counsel free to all was given,
For he was kind to all!
The young, the old, the sick, the hale.
Found him a friend most sure;
For he rejoiced in others' weal.
Although himself was poor.
And yet not poor; for calm content
Made all that he possess'd
Be cherished with a grateful heart,
Which made it doubly blest.
Serene 'mid ills, to age designed,
His days in peace did flow—
His timeward pilgrimage is past,
And now he sleeps below!
A happy man! —though on life's shoals,
His bark was roughly driven,
Yet still he braved the surge—because
His anchorage was in heaven!
I know no more—what more wouldst know,
Since death deliverance gave;
His spirit took its flight on high—
This is the poor man's grave!

Title:The Poor Man's Grave

Author:Robert Gilfillan

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:12th April 1862

Keywords:poverty, religion


This poem by Robert Gilfillan valorises the honest working classes. Its celebration of ‘noble poverty’, has some religious resonances in its prioritisation of spiritual over material assets, but particularly encourages kindness and concern for others. In its suggestion that the grave itself (no headstone, wildly growing grass) is less important than the memory of a man’s acts, the poem seeks to reduce class tension by ascribing moral worthiness even to a pauper’s grave. – SR