Within the court, before the judge,
There stand six wretched creatures,
They're lame and weary, one and all,
With pinched and pallid features.
The father is a broken man,
The mother weak and ailing,
The little children, skin and bone,
With fear and hunger wailing.
Their sins are very great, and call
Aloud for retribution,
For their's (maybe you guess!) the crime
Of hopeless destitution.
They look upon the judge's face,
They know what judges ponder,
They know the punishment that waits
On those that beg and wander.
For months from justice they have fled
Along the streets and highways,
From farm to farm, from town to town,
Along the lanes and byways.
They've slept full oftentimes in jail,
They're known in many places;
Yet still they live, for all the woe
That's stamped upon their faces.
The woman's chill with fear. The man
Implores the judge: "Oh tell us,
What will you? With our children small
Relentlessly expel us?
Oh let us be! We'll sleep at night
In corners dark; the city
Has room for all! And some kind soul
Will give a crust in pity.
"For wife and children I will toil:
It cannot be much longer
(For God almighty is and good!)
Ere I for work am stronger.
Oh let us here with men remain,
Nor drive us any further!
Oh why our curses will you have,
And not our blessings rather!"
And now the sick man quails before
The judge's piercing glances:
"No, only two of you shall go
This time and take your chances.
Your wife and you! The children four
You'll leave, my man, behind you,
For them, within the Orphan's Home,
Free places I will find you."
The father's dumb--the mother shrieks:
"My babes and me you'd sever?
If God there be, such cruel act
Shall find forgiveness never!
But first, oh judge, must you condemn
To death their wretched mother--
I cannot leave my children dear
With you or any other!
"I bore and nursed them, struggling still
To shelter and to shield them,
Oh judge, I'll beg from door to door,
My very life-blood yield them!
I know you do not mean it, judge,
With us poor folk you're jesting.
Give back my babes, and further yet
We'll wander unprotesting."
The judge, alas! has turned away,
The paper dread unrolled,
And useless all the mother's grief,
The wild and uncontrolled.
More cruel can a sentence be
Than that which now is given?
Oh cursed the system 'neath whose sway
The human heart is riven!