(Written expressly for this paper by G.G.N.)

The lament of a beggar – O pray lend an ear,
I’m old and infirm, but my conscience is clear,
I’m weary, I’m wet, and starvation creeps o’er,
Then have mercy! – relive me – I beg and implore.
These words I’ve repeated again and again,
With a voice that is trembling from hunger and pain,
But yet not a friend have I met with to day,
To console or relieve me in plodding life’s way.
It is eighty long years since the days of my youth,
And my white locks will prove what I say is the truth,
But oh! how this world has been changed to my view,
Once friends I had numbers, but now I have few.
Neither kindred have I now existing on earth,
Tho’ my father and mother to me were great worth,
And tho! once I could boast a kind wife and a child,
Yet they like my parents by death were beguil’d.
Thus afflicted – dejected – and weary I crave,
You’ll relieve this sad gnawing which in me doth rave,
‘Tis starvation I’m suff’ring, oh! grant me relief!
I must beg while I’ve life, but I’ll ne’er die a thief.

Title:The Beggar's Lamentation

Author:G. G. N.

Publication:Accrington Guardian

Published in:Accrington

Date:November 2nd 1861

Keywords:family, morality, poverty


This broadly dactylic poem of five quatrains is written in the narrative rhyming couplet style. It is in the voice of a male beggar and serves to humanise him, suggesting that he is worthy of ‘relief’. The beggar declares that his wife and child have died and that it is ‘eighty long years since my youth’. Importantly, the man states that he has never and never would resort to theft. Published at the beginning of the Cotton Famine in a cotton manufacturing town, this poem both reflects and pre-empts social conditions which required a sharp drawing of moral lines in relation to the provision of economic relief. If people were going to help the poor, the poor needed to be worthy of it, and honest in their claims. These kinds of poems were aimed at potential donors. – SR