Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice
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Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
 
The Children’s Auction

By Charles Mackay

(English Chartist poet, 1814–1889)
 
WHO bids for the little children—
  Body, and soul and brain?
Who bids for the little children—
  Young and without a stain?
“Will no one bid,” said England,        5
  “For their souls so pure and white,
And fit for all good or evil
  The world on their page may write?”
 
“We bid,” said Pest and Famine;
  “We bid for life and limb;        10
Fever and pain and squalor,
  Their bright young eyes shall dim.
When the children grow too many,
  We’ll nurse them as our own,
And hide them in secret places        15
  Where none may hear their moan.”
 
“I bid,” said Beggary, howling;
  “I bid for them one and all!
I’ll teach them a thousand lessons—
  To lie, to skulk, to crawl!        20
They shall sleep in my lair like maggots,
  They shall rot in the fair sunshine;
And if they serve my purpose
  I hope they’ll answer thine.”
 
“I’ll bid you higher and higher,”        25
  Said Crime, with a wolfish grin;
“For I love to lead the children
  Through the pleasant paths of sin.
They shall swarm in the streets to pilfer,
  They shall plague the broad highway,        30
They shall grow too old for pity
  And ripe for the law to slay.
 
“Give me the little children,
  Ye good, ye rich, ye wise,
And let the busy world spin round        35
  While ye shut your idle eyes;
And your judges shall have work,
  And your lawyers wag the tongue,
And the jailers and policemen
  Shall be fathers to the young!”        40
 
 
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