Oh, my heart is sadly yearning,
Yearning to those homeless ones
Who, with world-crush’d heart, are learning
How the gaunt form, famine, comes.
Bleeding feet rough paths are pacing,
With a grief-seared hopeless eye;
Pallid brows stern want are facing,
With an anguished prayer to die.
Lisping ones are drooping, dying,
On the hunger’d mother’s breast;
Vainly asking, vainly crying,
For the crust of food and rest.
Youth is thrust where crime is reeking,
Where their virtue’s sold for bread;
Oh, God, fearful is the seeking
Such a roof for roofless head.
Swiftly now the cloud is coming
That will quench in starless night
Many a hope where hope is humming
Like a beauteous bird of light.
Oh, I envy not the coffer
Hoarded by the miser’s hand;
But I would have gold to offer
To the poor, God’s chosen band.
Son of wealth, oh! stand not dreaming
Idly by the shining ore,
Callous to the gospel meaning,
Which has said, “Feed, feed my poor.”
Give thy wealth, he is thy brother,
Steeped in misery though he be;
Let thy gold his heart wounds cover,
As thy God hath prosper’d thee.
Fame has not a higher glory,
Not a brighter, holier light,
Than is breathed out in the story
Of that one who gave her mite.
Twas but little, yet ‘twas given
Freely, with a willing hand:
And the deed God told in heaven,
Told amongst his angel band.
Now ‘tis ever deeply teaching
“We may make our lives sublime;
Ever uttering, ever preaching,
Charity is love divine.
We should grave it on our altars,
Keep it whispring (sic) whispering in our breast,
When a white lip near us falters
Out a prayer for food and rest.
This should be our fervent breathing,
And our vespers tell it o’er.
This each [Christian] heart be wreathing,
Help us, help the suffering poor.

Title:God Help the Poor


Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:October 19th 1861

Keywords:charity, morality, poverty, religion


This poem is composed of regular quatrains with every other line written in iambic tetrameter. The prominent theme is the suffering and pain experienced by the unemployed cotton workers and their families. We are told that they “are learning How the gaunt form, famine, comes.” The use of the commas to create a moment of silence encourages the reader to reflect early on in the poem. It is almost a preparation for the reader, to take a deep breath and know you are about to read something written in anguish. Published in the newspaper in October 1861, this poem was written shortly after the closure of the cotton factories and the booming county of Lancashire came to a standstill. The duration of the factory closures remains unknown to the unemployed and that is conveyed to the reader through the regular ABAB rhyme scheme and rhythm of the poem. The eternal flow of the poem allows the reader to be immersed in that feeling of panic and worry. However, this is soon disrupted by the sudden change in tone. We see a change from “hopeless” to hopeful as the poet appeals to the Christians reading to “Give thy wealth” and offer “gold to the poor”. For the poet, community and charity is a temporary salvation for the cotton workers in a difficult time. The use of the full stop on the end, as used at the end of every quatrain, is a moment for silence. Except this one is everlasting and really emphasises the pity for the poor. Hannah Monks, University of Exeter