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Prayer & Potatoes


An old lady sat in her old arm-chair

With wrinkled visage and dishevelled hair

And hunger-worn features;

For a few days and for weeks her only fare,

As she sat there in her old arm-chair,

Had been potatoes.

But now they were gone; of bad and good

Not one was left for the old lady’s food

Of those potatoes;

And she sighed and said “What shall I do?

Where shall I send, and to whom shall go

For more potatoes”?

And she thought of the vicar over the way,

The vicar so ready to worship and pray,

Whose cellar was full of potatoes.

And she said; “I will send for the vicar to come:

He’ll not mind much to give some

Of such a store of potatoes.

And the vicar came as fast as he could,

Thinking to do the old lady some good,

But never for once of potatoes:

He asked her at once what was her chief want,

And she, simple soul, expecting a grant,

Immediately answered “potatoes.”

But the vicar’s religion didn’t lie that way;

He was more accustomed to preachy and to pray,

Than to give of his hoarded potatoes:

So, not hearing, of course, what the old lady said,

He rose to pray, with uncovered head,

But she only thought of potatoes.

He prayed for patience, and wisdom and grace,

But when he prayed “Lord give her peace,”

She audibly sighed, “Give potatoes;”

And at the end of each prayer which he said,

He heard, or thought that he heard in its stead,

The same request for potatoes.

The vicar was troubled; knew not what to do;

‘Twas very embarrassing to have her act so

About “those carnal potatoes.”

So, ending his prayer, he started for home;

But, as the door closed behind him, he heard a deep groan,

“O give to the hungry potatoes!”

And that groan followed him all the way home;

In the midst of the night it haunted his room-

“O give to the hungry potatoes!”

He could bear it no longer; arose and dressed,

From his well-filled cellar taking in haste

A bag of his best potatoes.

Again he went to the widow’s lone hut;

Her sleepless eyes she had not yet shut;

But there she sat in that old arm chair,

With the same wan features, the same sad air,

And entering in he poured on the floor

A bushel or more of his goodly store

Of choicest potatoes.

The widow’s heart leapt up with joy;

Her face was haggard and wan no more.

“Now,” said the vicar, “shall we pray?”

“Yes,” said the widow; “now you may.”

And he kneeled him down on the sandy floor,

Where he had poured his goodly store,

And such a prayer the vicar prayed

As never before his lips essayed;

No longer embarrassed, but free and full

He poured out the voice of a liberal soul,

And the widow responded aloud “amen!”

But said no more of potatoes.

And would you, who hear this simple tale,

Pray for the poor, and praying “prevail,”

Then preface your words with alms and good deeds:

Search out the poor, their wants and their needs:

Pray for peace, and grace, and spiritual food,

For wisdom, and guidance for all these are good,

But don’t forget the potatoes.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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