THE ALTAR-BOY by John O'Brien

Now McEvoy was altar-boy
   As long as I remember;
He was, bedad, a crabbéd lad,
   And sixty come December.
Faith, no one dared to "interfere"
   In things the which concernin'
'Twas right and just to him to trust
   Who had the bit o' learnin'
To serve the priest; and here at least
   He never proved defaulter;
So, wet or dry, you could rely
   To find him on the Altar.

The acolyte in surplice white Some admiration rouses: But McEvoy was altar-boy In "Sund'y coat-'n-trouses." And out he'd steer, the eye severe The depths behind him plumbin" In dread, I wot (he once was "cot"), The priest might, not be comin': Then, stepping slow on heel and toe, No more he'd fail or falter, But set likewise with hands and eyes He'd move about the Altar.
A master-stroke of other folk Might start the opposition, And some, mebbe, in jealousy Bedoubt their erudition; But McEvoy was altar-boy And, spite of all their chattin', It "put the stuns" on lesser ones To hear him run the Latin. And faith, he knew the business through, The rubrics and the psalter; You never met his "aikals" yet When servin' on the Altar.
The priest, indeed, might take the lead By right of Holy Orders, But McEvoy was altar-boy, And just upon the borders. So sermons dry he'd signify With puckered brows behoovin', An', if you please, at homilies He'd nod the head approvin'; And all the while a cute old smile Picked out the chief defaulter; Faith, wet or dry, the crabbéd eye Would "vet" you from the Altar.

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