An English village, a summer scene,
A homely cottage, a garden green,
An opening vista, a cloudless sky,
A bee that hums as it passes by;
A babe that chuckles among the flowers,
A smile that enlivens the mid-day hours,
A wife that is fair as the sunny day,
A peace that the world cannot take away,
A hope that is humble and daily bread,
A thankful soul that is comforted,
A cosy cot and a slumbering child,
A life and a love that are undefiled,
A thought that is silent, an earnest prayer,
The noiseless step of a phantom there!
A drunken husband, a wailing wife;
Oh, a weary way is the way of life!
A heartless threat and a cruel blow
And grief that the world can never know;
A tongue obscene and a will perverse,
A horrid oath and a muttered curse,
A winter drear and a scanty meal,
A heart so hard, oh, a heart of steel!
A wizened look and an infant's cry,
The cold, cold clutch of Poverty,
A withered hand and a blanchëd cheek,
Alone, and, ah, no friend to seek!
A chilly hearth and a ragged dress,
A home that is all heaviness!
A grim grey court in a City's gloom,
A frantic fear of eternal doom,
A wretch besotted and depraved
And cries that cursed the curse they craved,
Pollution all, no light! no light!
"Oh, where shall be my drink, to-night!"
A wretched garret, a straw-strewn bed,
A husband stretched in a corner--dead.
A shriek of anguish, a choking sigh,
"Oh let me perish, let me die!"
An agony of dire despair,
A picture of torn and dishevelled hair,
And none to succour, none to save,
A pauper's hearse and an early grave.
A voiceless widow, a wringing of hands,
A long, long wish for some far off sands,
A staring eye and a vacant mood,
"Oh Father, teach me to be good"
A strengthless effort, a feverish start,
A prostrate form and--a broken heart.
A dismal eve and a howling dog,
A ghostly silence, a river fog,
A byway deserted, a dingy street,
A glimmer to light life's feeble feet.
A trembling step and a beaded brow,
"Oh where, oh where, shall I hasten now?"
No eye hath seen nor ever shall,
On, on in the gloom, to the still canal;
Hush, hush, a murmur--a fearful pause--
A footfall--oh horror; a slam of doors--
A sinking down to former repose,
"Oh darkness come and end my woes."
Away like a phantom, down far to the East,
"Oh when shall the weary and sad be released?"
An alley, a prayer, a soundless wharf,
A biting wind and a graveyard cough,
A heap of rags and a starving child,
Alas, alas for the undefiled!
A heavy tide and a moon obscured,
A shapeless mass of barges moored,
Nor light, nor sound and a flood that gapes,
A frowning pile of horrid shapes.
All darkness, blackness, deep despair,
"My burden is greater than I can bear!"
A rolling river, the dead of night,
A form all palsied with affright,
Alone, yes, alone, yet so afraid,
A hurried stride from that inky shade;
On over the barges away from the shore,
One breathless clasp, one long clasp more--
A heavy plunge and a gurgling groan,
Two clammy corpses cold as stone,
A brow distorted, a clenchëd fist,
A babe the Lord Himself has kissed.