The Volunteer Organist by Sam Walter Foss

The gret big church wuz crowded full uv broadcloth an' of silk,
An' satins rich as cream thet grows on our ol' brindle's milk;
Shined boots, biled shirts, stiff dickeys, an' stove-pipe hats were there,
An' doodes 'ith trouserloons so tight they couldn't kneel down in prayer.
 
The elder in his poolpit high, said, as he slowly riz:
"Our organist is kept' to hum, laid up 'ith roomatiz,
An' as we hev no substitoot, as brother Moore ain't here,
Will some 'un in the congregation be so kind's to volunteer?"
 
An' then a red-nosed, blear-eyed tramp, of low-toned, rowdy style,
Give an interductory hiccup, an' then swaggered up the aisle.
Then thro' that holy atmosphere there crep' a sense er sin,
An' thro' thet air of sanctity the odor uv ol' gin.
 
Then Deacon Purington he yelled, his teeth all set on edge:
"This man perfanes the house of God! W'y, this is sacrilege!"
The tramp didn' hear a word he said, but slouched 'ith stumblin' feet,
An' stalked an' swaggered up the steps, an' gained the organ seat.
 
He then went pawin' thro' the keys, an' soon there rose a strain
Thet seemed to jest bulge out the heart, an' 'lectrify the brain;
An' then he slapped down on the thing 'ith hands an' head an' knees,
He slam-dashed his hull body down kerflop upon the keys.
 
The organ roared, the music flood went sweepin' high an' dry,
It swelled into the rafters, an' bulged out into the sky;
The ol' church shook and staggered, an' seemed to reel an' sway,
An' the elder shouted "Glory!" an' I yelled out "Hooray!!"
 
An' then he tried a tender strain that melted in our ears,
Thet brought up blessed memories and drenched 'em down 'ith tears;
An' we dreamed uv ol' time kitchens, 'ith Tabby on the mat,
Uv home an' luv an' baby days, an' Mother, an' all that!
 
An' then he struck a streak uv hope—a song from souls forgiven—
Thet burst from prison bars uv sin, an' stormed the gates uv heaven;
The morning stars together sung—no soul wuz left alone—
We felt the universe wuz safe, an' God was on His throne!
 
An' then a wail of deep despair an' darkness come again,
An' long, black crape hung on the doors uv all the homes uv men;
No luv, no light, no joy, no hope, no songs of glad delight,
An' then—the tramp, he swaggered down an' reeled out into the night!
 
But we knew he'd tol' his story, tho' he never spoke a word,
An' it was the saddest story thet our ears had ever heard;
He had tol' his own life history, an' no eye was dry thet day,
W'en the elder rose an' simply said: "My brethren, let up pray."