The Ragged Stocking – Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (Unitarian, suffragist, abolitionist, author, educator)
Do you see this ragged stocking,
Here a rent and there a hole?
Each thread of this little stocking
Is woven around my soul.
Do you wish to hear my story?
Excuse me, the tears will start,
For the sight of this ragged stocking
Stirs the fountains of my heart.
You say that my home is happy;
To me ‘tis earth’s fairest place.
Buts its sunshine, peace and gladness
Back to this stocking I trace.
I was once a wretched drunkard;
Ah! You start and say not so;
But the dreadful depths I’ve sounded,
And I speak of what I know.
I was wild and very reckless
When I stood on manhood’s brink,
And, joining with pleasure-seekers
Learned to revel and drink.
Strong drink is a raging demon,
In his hands are shame and woe;
He mocketh the strength of the mighty,
And bringeth strong men low.
The light of my was darkened
By the shadow of my sin;
And want and woe unbarr’d the door,
And suffering entered in.
The streets were full one Christmas Eve,
And alive with girls and boys,
Merrily looking through windowpanes
At bright and beautiful toys
And throngs of parents came to buy
The gifts that children prize,
And homeward trudged with happy hearts,
The love-light in their eyes.
I thought of my little Charley,
At home in his lowly bed,
With the shadows around his life,
And in shame I bowed my head.
I entered my home a sober man,
My heart by remorse was wrung,
And there in the chimney corner,
This little stocking was hung.
Faded and worn as you see it;
To me ‘tis a precious thing,
And I never gaze upon it
But unbidden tears will spring.
I begin to search my pockets,
But scarcely a dime was there;
But scanty as was the pittance,
This stocking received its share.
For a longing seized upon me
To gladden the heart of my boy,
And I bought him some cakes and candy,
And added a simple toy.
Then I knelt by this little stocking
And sobbed out an earnest prayer,
And arose with strength to wrestle
And break from the tempter’s snare.
And this faded, worn-out stocking,
So pitiful once to see,
Became the wedge that broke my chain,
And a blessing it brought to me.
Do you marvel then I prize it?
When each darn and seam and hole
Is liked with my soul’s deliverance
From the bondage of the bowl?
And tonight my wife will tell you,
Though I’ve houses, gold and land,
He holds no treasure more precious
Than this stocking in my hand.