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A widow by her landlord was oppressed
To pay at once her backward coin of rent;
For he, cursed by the wealth that should have blessed,
Forgot that he, too, in a tenement
Dwelt, with unpaid arrear; and surely he,
More than a widow, lived in poverty.


For they alone are rich who have obtained
The love of God, for which no gold can pay.
Blind to the peaceful joy he might have gained,
The craven landlord, on a winter's day
That pierced with cold and wind-thrust snow and sleet,
Drove forth the widow to the roofless street.


Her clinging son, with elfin prattle, sought
To charm away her grief; yet, in his heart,
By the indignant pencil of his thought,
The shameful scene was drawn in every part.
There lived the widow's tears, and hard and base
Stood out the likeness of the landlord's face.


Like breaking waves, year after year rolled up,
And in their tide the widow's son became
A truthful painter, in whose life's bright cup
A thankful world dissolved the pearl of fame.
Then, with his brush, which spoke in every hue,
The picture in his heart he strongly drew.


Near to the landlord's home the painting hung,
As at his threshold, in a public place;
To view it came the townsfolk, old and young,
And said, "This is our neighbor's ruthless face,
And this the cruel deed that he has done
To the poor widow and her artist son."


The landlord brought temptations coined and vast,
And would have given half the wealthy town,
To lay the brush-raised specter of his past:
No gold availed; the specter would not down;
But haunted him thereafter till he died,
In looks and words and deeds, on every side.