An old lady sat in her old arm-chair
With wrinkled visage and disheveled hair
And hunger worn features:
For days and for weeks her only fare,
As she sat there in her old armchair,
Had been potatoes.
But now they were gone; of bad or good
Not one was left for the old lady’s food
Of the potatoes.
And she sighed and she said,
“What shall I do?
Where shall I send, and to whom shall I go
For more potatoes?”
And the thought of the deacon over the way,
The deacon so ready to worship and pray,
Whose cellar was full of potatoes;
And she said,
“I will send for the deacon to come;
He’ll not mind much to give me some of such a store
And the deacon came over as fast as he could,
Thinking to do the old lady some good,
But never thought 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 deacon’s religion wasn’t that way:
He was more accustomed to preach and to pray,
Then 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 thought only of potatoes.
He prayed for patience, wisdom, and grace,
But when he prayed “Lord give her peace,”
She audibly sighed
And at the end of each prayer which he said,
He heard, or thought he heard in its stead
The same request for potatoes.
The deacon 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 were not yet shut;
But there she sat in that old armchair,
With the same wan features, the same sad air.
And entering in, he poured on the floor
A bushel or more from his goodly store
Of choicest potatoes.
The widow’s heart leaped for joy;
Her face was haggard and wan no more.
“Now,” said the deacon, “shall we pray?”
“Yes” said the widow, “now you may.”
And he knelt down on the sanded floor,
Where he had poured his goodly store,
And such a prayer the deacon 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!”
And said no more of potatoes.
And would you, who hear this simple tale,
Pray for the poor, and praying “prevail,”
Then preface your prayers with alms and good deeds:
Search out the poor, their wants and their needs;
Prayer for peace, and grace, and spiritual food,
For wisdom and guidance - for all these are good,
But don’t forget the potatoes.
-J. T. Pettee
John Tyler Pettee was born on 5 September 1822 in Sharon, Massachusetts, United States of America. In 1843, he graduated from Wesleyan University. On 26 October 1843, he married Mariette Roxanne Clark. Mr. Pettee became a minister with the title Reverend, an amateur astronomer, a Meriden School superintendent, a teacher, a principal, a poet, a judge of probate, and a town selectman. John Tyler Pettee passed on at 84 years of age on 7 February 1907 in Meriden, Connecticut, United States of America. To visit his online memorial click on the link https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17001404.