Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Cry of the Unemployed - Chartist Poetry


Tis' hard! tis' hard! to wander on through this bright world of ours,—
Beneath a sky of smiling blue,—on velvet paths of flowers:
With music in the woods, as there were nought but pleasure known,
Or angels walked earth's solitudes:—and yet with want to groan!
To see no beauty in the stars, nor in the sun's glad smile;
To wail and wander misery-cursed! willing, but cannot toil!
There's burning sickness at my heart: I sink down famished:
God of the wretched, hear my prayer!   I would that I were dead!

Heaven droppeth down with manna still in many a golden shower,
And feeds the leaves with fragrant breath, with silver dew, the
There's honeyed fruit for bee and bird, with bloom laughs out the
There's food for all God's happy things; but none gives food to me!
Earth decked with Plenty's garland-crown, smiles on my aching eye;
The purse-proud, swathed in luxury, disdainful pass me by:
I've eager hands—I've earnest heart—but may not work for bread;
God of the wretched, hear my prayer!   I would that I were dead!

Gold art thou not a blessed thing?   A charm above all other,
To shut up hearts to nature's cry, when brother pleads with brother!
Hast thou a music sweeter than the loving voice of kindness?
No, curse thee, thou'rt a mist twixt God and men in outer blindness!
"Father, come back!"   My children cry!   Their voices once so sweet,
Now quiver-lance-like, in my bleeding heart!   I cannot meet!
The looks that make the brain go mad, of dear ones asking bread!
God of the wretched hear my prayer!   I would that I were dead!

Lord, what right have the poor to wed?   Love's for the gilded great!
Are they not formed of nobler clay who dine off golden plate?
'Tis the worst curse of poverty to have a feeling heart:
Why can I not, with iron grasp, thrust out the tender part?
I cannot slave in yon Bastile!   Ah, no! 'twere bitterer pain—
I'd wear the pauper's iron within, than clank the convict's chain!
To work but cannot—starve, I may—but will not beg for bread:
God of the wretched, hear my prayer!   I would that I were dead!


Gerald Massey wrote this 165 years ago, yet it still remains heart-breakingly true. 

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