Around The Boree Log and Other Verses

The Altar—Boy

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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