"I am Nell Coles. It is my lot
to lie within the parish plot, rolled in a strip of poorhouse sheet
that had ado to reach my feet; nailed in a pinewood box, so thin
already it lets water in,
and tumbled here with naught to show
a Christian creature bides below.
To right and left the gentlefolk
are put to bed in three-inch oak;
linen-shrouded, lapped in lead;
smooth-turfed and tended, foot to head;
held safely in by curb and stone --
yet would I choose to change with none,
who, spite of pomp and high estate,
are of the dead most desolate.
All graves are hard, but none has less
of comfort or of kindliness --
tho' roofs be sound and walls be dry --
than those wherein my betters lie.
All graves are cold; but I knew cold
and lack and shivering of old.
I did not, as these great ones come
unpractised to a cheerless home.
Yet, praised be God, here at mine end
my poverty is turned my friend;
for at my elbow I can see
the shapes of bygone company --
Poll Makepeace; merryman Tom Finch,
and Lightfoot's Joan; can, at a pinch
throw out a jest to Silas King
shall set his rib-bones rattling;
and while my old jaw hangs in place
match tales with Martha Boniface --
what time the dead do lie alone
until the final Trump is blown.
When, even on that awful Day,
I think to be more blest than they;
for as they grapple, heave and strain
and strive to reach the light again,
all unnumbered I'll have found
my way up thro' the shuddering ground,
and scrambled with no trouble at all
by rocking tombs and shafts that fall,
past twisting cross and groaning urn--
out of my station, out of turn--
first in the place, the first to stand,
grave-gear bunched in my either hand,
making my bob, and like a nell,
crying 'Good day, Lord Gabriel!' "
Pauper's Piece Ada Jackson
in Country Life magazine 1970