Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
The Voice of the Poor
 
Lady Jane Francesca Speranza Wilde (d. 1869)
 
 
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—        5
  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:        10
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        15
  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?        20
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:        25
  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?        30
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        35
  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.        40
 
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        45
  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!        50
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,—        55
  “Lord, grant us Death!”
 

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