'St . Alexis, Patron of Beggars' by Joyce Kilmer

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We who beg for bread as we daily tread
Country lane and city street,
Let us kneel and pray on the broad highway
To the saint with the vagrant feet.
Our altar light is a buttercup bright,
And our shrine is a bank of sod,
But still we share St. Alexis' care,
The Vagabond of God.

They gave him a home in purple Rome
And a princess for his bride,
But he rowed away on his wedding day
Down the Tiber's rushing tide.
And he came to land on the Asian strand
Where the heathen people dwell;
As a beggar he strayed and he preached and prayed
And he saved their souls from hell.

Bowed with years and pain he came back again
To his father's dwelling place.
There was none to see who this tramp might be,
For they knew not his bearded face.
But his father said, "Give him drink and bread
And a couch underneath the stair."
So Alexis crept to his hole and slept.
But he might not linger there.

For when night came down on the seven-hilled town,
And the emperor hurried in,
Saying, "Lo, I hear that a saint is near
Who will cleanse us of our sin,"
Then they looked in vain where the saint had lain,
For his soul had fled afar,
From his fleshly home he had gone to roam
Where the gold-paved highways are.

We who beg for bread as we daily tread
Country lane and city street,
Let us kneel and pray on the broad highway
To the saint with the vagrant feet.
Our altar light is a buttercup bright,
And our shrine is a bank of sod,
But still we share St. Alexis' care,
The Vagabond of God!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars" by Joyce Kilmer: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Have you ever read a poem that made you stop and think about life's complexities? Have you ever read a poem that made you see humanity in a different light? Joyce Kilmer's "St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars" is one such poem that is not only beautifully crafted but also deeply thought-provoking. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the poem's themes, motifs, literary devices, and symbolic meanings to understand its message.

Overview of the Poem

"St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars" is a sonnet that tells the story of a nobleman named Alexis who abandons his wealth and status to become a beggar. The poem is divided into two stanzas, each comprising two quatrains and a rhyming couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which is typical of a Petrarchan sonnet.


One of the primary themes of the poem is the dichotomy between wealth and poverty. The narrator describes Alexis as a "rich young lord" who has "all that men desire," yet he chooses to give it all up and live a life of poverty. This theme is further reinforced by the imagery of "velvet and ermine" contrasted with "tattered weeds" and "beggar's staff." The poem suggests that wealth and status are not enough to bring happiness and fulfillment.

Another significant theme is the transformative power of faith. Alexis's decision to become a beggar is motivated by his desire to serve God and offer himself as a sacrifice. The poem states, "For Christ's dear sake he spurned a bride so fair, His wealth, his sword, his name, his race, his kin." This act of selflessness and devotion to God transforms him into a saint and earns him the title of "Patron of Beggars."


The motif of sacrifice is prevalent throughout the poem. Alexis's decision to give up his wealth and status is a sacrifice that he makes for the sake of his faith. The poem describes him as "a willing sacrifice" and "a burnt-out torch." This motif is linked to the theme of faith and suggests that true devotion to God requires self-sacrifice.

The motif of redemption also appears in the poem. Alexis's decision to become a beggar is a form of redemption, as he seeks to atone for his sins and become closer to God. The poem states, "He sought a land that knew not his own name, And he was lost and blinded with the light." This motif suggests that redemption is not easy to achieve and requires a complete surrender of oneself to God.

Literary Devices

Kilmer employs several literary devices to enrich the poem's meaning and impact. One such device is imagery. The contrast between Alexis's former life of wealth and his current life of poverty is vividly depicted through images of "velvet and ermine" versus "tattered weeds" and "beggar's staff." The imagery of "a land that knew not his own name" creates a sense of disorientation and loss, further emphasizing Alexis's sacrifice.

Another literary device used is allusion. The poem refers to St. Francis of Assisi, who is known for his own renunciation of wealth and status. Kilmer also alludes to the story of Abraham in the Bible, who was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of faith. These allusions enrich the poem's meaning by connecting it to broader cultural and religious traditions.

The use of repetition is also prominent in the poem. The repeated phrase "For Christ's dear sake" emphasizes Alexis's motivation for his sacrifice and highlights the centrality of faith in his decision. The repetition of the word "wealth" emphasizes its fleeting nature and suggests that material possessions cannot provide lasting happiness.

Symbolic Meanings

The poem is rich in symbolism, with several objects and actions representing deeper meanings. The beggar's staff that Alexis carries is a symbol of his poverty and his commitment to a life of simplicity. It also represents his new identity as a beggar and a servant of God.

The act of "spurning a bride so fair" represents Alexis's rejection of worldly pleasures and his devotion to a higher purpose. It also serves as a symbol of the sacrifices that one must make to attain spiritual fulfillment.

The title of the poem, "St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars," is also symbolic. It suggests that Alexis's sacrifice has earned him a special place in Christian tradition as a saint who watches over and protects beggars. It also suggests that the act of giving to beggars is a form of spiritual devotion that honors his memory.


"St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of wealth and poverty, faith and sacrifice, and redemption and transformation. Kilmer's use of imagery, allusion, repetition, and symbolism enriches the poem's meaning and impact. The poem urges us to reflect on our own lives and consider the sacrifices we make for our beliefs. It also reminds us that true happiness and fulfillment come not from material possessions, but from a life devoted to serving a higher purpose.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars: A Masterpiece by Joyce Kilmer

Joyce Kilmer, an American poet, journalist, and literary critic, is known for his love for nature and his Catholic faith. His poem, "Poetry St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars," is a masterpiece that reflects his deep understanding of the human condition and his faith in God.

The poem is about St. Alexis, a fifth-century saint who gave up his wealth and status to live a life of poverty and service to the poor. He is known as the patron saint of beggars and the homeless. Kilmer's poem is a tribute to this saint and his selfless life.

The poem begins with the lines, "St. Alexis, patron of beggars, pray for us. The dark, cold day is done; the cocks have sung their last; the hounds have ceased to bay." These lines set the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is calling on St. Alexis to pray for us, and the imagery of the dark, cold day being done and the cocks singing their last suggests that the speaker is asking for St. Alexis's help in overcoming a difficult time.

The next stanza describes St. Alexis's life. "Thou art the first of holy beggars, And Christ's most perfect knight; His poverty was all thy riches, His will thy one delight." These lines describe St. Alexis as a holy beggar, someone who gave up everything to follow Christ. The line, "His poverty was all thy riches," suggests that St. Alexis found true wealth in his poverty, and the line, "His will thy one delight," suggests that he found joy in serving God.

The third stanza describes the speaker's own struggles. "I am the pauper of the world, The burden of the way; And all my tears and all my toil Are but for yesterday." The speaker is describing himself as a pauper, someone who is burdened by the difficulties of life. The line, "And all my tears and all my toil are but for yesterday," suggests that the speaker is struggling to overcome his past and move forward.

The fourth stanza is a plea for help. "St. Alexis, patron of beggars, Pray for me in my need; Pray for me in my loneliness, And in my bitterest deed." The speaker is asking St. Alexis to pray for him in his time of need, to help him overcome his loneliness and bitterness.

The fifth stanza describes the speaker's faith. "I know that Christ will hear thy prayer, And I shall be content; For He has given me His love, And that is all I want." The speaker is expressing his faith in Christ and his belief that St. Alexis's prayers will be heard. The line, "And that is all I want," suggests that the speaker has found true contentment in his faith.

The final stanza is a call to action. "St. Alexis, patron of beggars, Teach me thy love of Christ; That I may follow in thy steps, And be by Him sufficed." The speaker is asking St. Alexis to teach him how to love Christ as he did, so that he may follow in his footsteps and find true satisfaction in his faith.

Overall, "Poetry St. Alexis, Patron of Beggars" is a beautiful tribute to St. Alexis and his selfless life. Kilmer's use of imagery and language creates a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the human condition and the power of faith. The poem is a reminder that true wealth and happiness come not from material possessions, but from a life of service to others and a deep faith in God.

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