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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Lady Jane Francesca Speranza Wilde d. 1869

The Voice of the Poor

WAS sorrow ever like unto our sorrow?

O God above!

Will our night never change into a morrow

Of joy and love?

A deadly gloom is on us—waking—sleeping—

Like the darkness at noon-tide

That fell upon the pallid Mother, weeping

By the Crucified.

Before us die our brothers of starvation:

Around are cries of famine and despair:

Where is hope for us, or comfort, or salvation?

Where, oh, where?

If the angels ever hearken, downward bending,

They are weeping, we are sure,

At the litanies of human groans ascending

From the crush’d hearts of the poor.

When the human rests in love upon the human,

All grief is light;

But who bends one kind glance to illumine

Our life-long night?

The air around is ringing with their laughter;

God has only made the rich to smile:

But we, in our rags and want and woe, we follow after,

Weeping the while.

And the laughter seems but utter’d to deride us:

When, oh! when,

Will fall the frozen barriers that divide us

From other men?

Will ignorance for ever thus enslave us!

Will misery for ever lay us low?

All are eager with their insults, but to save us

None, none, we know.

We never knew a childhood’s mirth and gladness,

Nor the proud heart of youth free and brave;

Oh! a death-like dream of wretchedness and sadness

Is our life’s weary journey to the grave.

Day by day we lower sink and lower,

Till the god-like soul within

Falls crush’d, beneath the fearful demon power

Of poverty and sin.

So we toil on—on, with fever burning

In heart and brain;

So we toil on—on, through bitter scorning,

Want, woe and pain:

We dare not raise our eyes to the blue heaven

Or the toil must cease;

We dare not breathe the fresh air God has given,

One hour in peace.

We must toil, though the light of life is burning,

Oh, how dim!

We must toil on our sick bed, feebly turning

Our eyes to Him

Who alone can hear the pale lip faintly saying

With scarce mov’d breath,

And the paler hands, uplifted, and the praying,—

“Lord, grant us Death!”