Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
To an Italian Beggar-Boy
By Elizabeth Clementine Kinney (1810–1889)
 
[Born in New York, N. Y., 1810. Died 1889. From Poems. 1867.]

THOU miniature of Woe!
  I see thy meagre form
Along the highway go,
  Starvation’s spectre! Storm
        And sun alike        5
        Unheeded strike
That head which doth no covering know.
 
Thy ravenous gray eyes glare
  Like a young wolf’s, dread boy!
Fearful is childhood’s stare,        10
  Bereft of childhood’s joy:
        It makes me wild
        To see a child
Who never gladdened at a toy.
 
Oh, hard must be the lot        15
  That makes a child a dread!
Where children’s smiles are not,
  Thorns grow in flowerets’ stead;
        A child’s glad face
        Is Heaven’s own grace        20
Round manhood’s stern existence shed.
 
Turn off that hungry eye,
  It gnaws at Pity’s heart!
Here’s bread; but come not nigh—
  Thy look makes agues start!        25
        There, take the whole;
        To thy starved soul
No crumb of joy will bread impart.
 
Thine is the famished cry
  Of a young heart unfed,        30
The hollow spirit’s sigh
  For something more than bread.
        “Give! give!” it says:
        Ah, vain he prays
To man, who prayer to God ne’er said!        35
 
Wert thou of woman born?
  Did human mother’s breast
Nourish thee, thing forlorn?
  Hath any love carest
        Thine infant cheek?        40
        Didst ever speak,
Or hear, the name of father blest?
 
No, no, it cannot be!
  Thou art the birth of Want;
Thy sire was Misery,        45
  Thy mother Famine gaunt:
        Thou hadst no home,—
        The naked dome
Was all the covering Earth could grant.
 
See! here a happy troop        50
  Of real children come,
Their lips the fond names group
  Of Father, Mother, Home!
        They go not far—
        Love is the star        55
That draws them back whene’er they roam.
 
But wherefore, with mock grin,
  Dost thou pursue these now?
Hath childhood any kin
  Or kith with such as thou?        60
        One hand did form
        The bird and worm—
No other kinship these allow.
 
Hark! there rings Nature’s laugh
  Fresh from those well-fed throats;        65
Old age leans on his staff
  To listen to its notes:
        The gush of joy
        Makes him a boy,—
How glad remembrance o’er it gloats!        70
 
Does that spasmodic scream,
  Jerked from thy shrunken chest,
A human effort seem
  To laugh among the rest?
        It shocks the ear,        75
        O God! to hear
Woe, through a child’s false laugh, confest!
 
And have these children all
  One Father, each who owns?
How partial blessings fall        80
  Upon his little ones!
        Why, outcast boy,
        Must thou mock joy,
While these pour out its natural tones?
 
Ah! why indeed? Be hushed,        85
  Short-sighted soul, and wait,
To learn why worms are crushed
  While birds sing at heaven’s gate;
        Why pools infect,
        While lakes reflect        90
The pure sky, and bear Fortune’s freight.
 
 
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