The Wanderer

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Wanderer is a poem written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the collected volume Songs of the Road on 16 march 1911.


The Wanderer

With acknowledgment to my friend Sir A. Quiller-Couch.

'Twas in the shadowy gloaming
Of a cold and wet March day,
That a wanderer came roaming
From countries far away.

Scant raiment had he round him,
Nor purse, nor worldly gear,
Hungry and faint we found him,
And bade him welcome here.

His weary frame bent double,
His eyes were old and dim,
His face was writhed with trouble
Which none might share with him.

His speech was strange and broken,
And none could understand,
Such words as might be spoken
In some far distant land.

We guessed not whence he hailed from,
Nor knew what far-off quay
His roving bark had sailed from
Before he came to me.

But there he was, so slender,
So helpless and so pale,
That my wife's heart grew tender
For one who seemed so frail.

She cried, "But you must bide here!
You shall no further roam.
Grow stronger by our side here,
Within our moorland home!"

She laid her best before him,
Homely and simple fare,
And to his couch she bore him
The raiment he should wear.

To mine he had been welcome,
My suit of russet brown,
But she had dressed our weary guest
In a loose and easy gown.

And long in peace he lay there,
Brooding and still and weak,
Smiling from day to day there
At thoughts he would not speak.

The months flowed on, but ever
Our guest would still remain,
Nor made the least endeavour
To leave our home again.

He heeded not for grammar,
Nor did we care to teach,
But soon he learned to stammer
Some words of English speech.

With these our guest would tell us
The things that he liked best,
And order and compel us
To follow his behest.

He ruled us without malice,
But as if he owned us all,
A sultan in his palace
With his servants at his call.

Those calls came fast and faster,
Our service still we gave,
Till I who had been master
Had grown to be his slave.

He claimed with grasping gestures
Each thing of price he saw,
Watches and rings and vestures,
His will the only law.

In vain had I commanded,
In vain I struggled still,
Servants and wife were banded
To do the stranger's will.

And then in deep dejection
It came to me one day,
That my own wife's affection
Had been beguiled away.

Our love had known no danger,
So certain had it been!
And now to think a stranger
Should dare to step between.

I saw him lie and harken
To the little songs she sung,
And when the shadows darken
I could hear his lisping tongue.

They would sit in chambers shady,
When the light was growing dim,
Ah, my fickle-hearted lady!
With your arm embracing him.

So, at last, lest he divide us,
I would put them to the test.
There was no one there beside us,
Save this interloping guest.

So I took my stand before them,
Very silent and erect,
My accusing glance passed o'er them,
Though with no observed effect.

But the lamp light shone upon her,
And I saw each tell-tale feature,
As I cried, "Now, on your honour,
Do or don't you love the creature?"

But her answer seemed evasive,
It was "Ducky-doodle-doo!
If his mummy loves um babby,
Doesn't daddums love um too?"