THE CRY OF THE CROWD BY WILLIAM BILLINGTON
GOD of the suffering, yet the silent, crowd,
Whose misery magnifieth day by day;
Who droop, though not by sin or sorry bowed,
But prematurely mingling clay with clay;
Like Flora’s children, doomed to quick decay,
We faint and fail for lack of sustenance,
And life and virtue wither on his way
As fiercely fatal Famine doth advance,
Declaring crime or death our only choice or chance.
We suffer sore, but would not for the world
Do deeds to cause a blush or call for blame
Though headlong down the steps of Danger hurled,
We welcome death, but dare not sin; we claim
To carry to the tomb a spotless name.
In spite of wrongs most rude and unredressed.
O, men are mad! else would War’s bloody game
No more be played, nor Famine more molest
The lowly labouring poor, by want of work oppressed.
Have we not been a pillar to uphold
The world of wealth which crowned our cotton kings?
But when our service ceased to gain them gold,
Were we not cast aside as useless things?
How, like that fabled fool with waxen wings,
Men spurn the earth – aspire to Deity!
Can rivers run, if fountains fail whence springs
Their wealth of waves? O, blind cupidity!
Thus blasting every bud of social sympathy.
Have we not suffered? Let the weary ground
Bear witness how we pace with painful feet
Earth’s barren bosom; for no fruit hath crowned
Life’s budding spring of blossom once so sweet.
Pale Poverty now dwells in every street;
Fair Freedom taketh back the boon she gave;
Brown Health and Vigor wear the winding sheet;
Grim Want’s fell finger points us to the grave:
From this deep hell of ills, thou, Lord, alone canst save!
Wilt Thou not save the suppliant that kneels
Petitioning Thy pardon and Thy power,
To soothe the pangs that patient Hunger feels,
To make our daily bread Thy daily dower,
To grant Thy grace an unimpeded shower,
Descending on this bleak and barren bed,
Where wan and withered falls the human flower,
Or lowly drooping hangs the humble head?
Wilt though not shield, dread Sire, the dying and the dead?
For both have prayed! and both are near me now,
And both have borne what Faith alone can bear:
Bright Beauty, with the death-damp on her brow,
Lies struggling in the arms of dark Despair.
There is enough – would all might have a share! –
To make this mournful earth a Paradise;
But when red Mammon makes the millionaire,
Ten thousand paupers pay the penal price.
Which God in justice, sets on man’s most grovelling vice.