Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spare a Thought

The Poor Actress's Christmas Dinner
Artist: Robert Braithwaite Martineau

Within and Without
A London Lyric


The winds are bitter; the skies are wild;
From the roof comes plunging the drowning rain:
Without, - in tatters, the world's poor child
Sobbeth abroad her grief, her pain!
No one heareth her, no one heedeth her:
But Hunger, her friend, with his bony hand,
Grasps her throat, whispering huskily -
"What dost Thou in a Christian land?"


The skies are wild, and the blast is cold;
Yet riot and luxury brawl within:
Slaves are waiting, in crimson and gold,
Waiting the nod of a child of sin.
The fire is crackling, wine is bubbling
Up in each glass to its beaded brim:
The jesters are laughing, the parasites quaffing
"Happiness," - honour," - and all for him!


She who is slain in the winter weather,
Ah! she once had a village fame;
Listened to love on the moonlit heather;
Had gentleness - vanity - maiden shame:
Now, her allies are the Tempest howling;
Prodigal's curses; self-disdain;
Poverty; misery: Well, - no matter;
There is an end unto every pain!

The harlot's fame was her doom to-day,
Disdain, - despair: by to-morrow's light
The ragged boards and the pauper's pall;
And so she'll be given to dusty night!
... Without a tear or a human sigh,
She's gone, - poor life and its "fever" o'er!
So, let her in calm oblivion lie;
While the world runs merry as heretofore!


He who yon lordly feast enjoyeth,
He who doth rest on his couch of down,
He it was, who threw the forsaken
Under the feet of the trampling town:
Liar - betrayer, - false as cruel,
What is the doom for his dastard sin?
His peers, they scorn? - high dames, they shun him?
- Unbar yon palace, and gaze within.

There, - yet his deeds are all trumpet-sounded,
There, upon silken seats recline
Maidens as fair as the summer morning,
Watching him rise from the sparklingwine.
Mothers all proffer their stainless daughters;
Men of high honour salute him "friend",
Skies! oh, where are your cleansing waters?

World! oh, where do thy wonders end?

Barry Cornwall (Bryan Walter Procter) 1787-1874


lakeviewer said...

A poem from the eighteen century says it all. Life is a tight mess within and without.

Wanda said...

This lovely poem is new to me...
The world does run merry for some, while there's disdain, poverty, and misery for others...

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Like Wanda, I have never heard this poem. It certainly points out the inequities that existed then....and unfortunately exist still.

An important reminder. Thanks Alaine.

(Oh, btw, I do not have a housekeeper. I did while the children still lived with us, but do not feel the need for one now. My husband is a great help and is not afraid to use the vacuum or unload the dishwasher. So when the work is shared the load is light!)

Lyn said...

A two hanky melodrama..nose pressed to window, looking at the lush life..but we all pay the piper, even the pretty boy within!

Derrick said...

Hi Alaine,

A lovely poem and a morality tale. It does us all good to be reminded. But I like Lyn's words!

steven said...

hi alaine - i love the painting at the top. the poem dances between sorrow and joy. something that is embedded in the human experience. have a peaceful day. steven