God help the poor, who on this wintry morn
Come forth of alleys dim and courts obscure!
God help yon poor pale girl, who droops forlorn,
And meekly her affliction doth endure!
God help the outcast lamb! she trembling stand,
All wan her lips and frozen red her hands;
Her sunken eyes are modestly downcast;
Her night-black hair streams on the fitful blast;
Her bosom, passing fair, is half reveal’d;
And, oh! how deep the sorrow there conceal’d!
Her feet benumb’d, her shoes all rent and worn:
God help thee, outcast lamb, who stand’st forlorn!
God help the poor!
God help the poor! An infant’s feeble wail
Comes from yon narrow gateway; and, behold,
A female crouching there, so deathly pale,
Huddling her child, to screen it from the cold!
Her vesture scant, her bonnet crushed and torn;
A thin shawl doth her baby dear enfold;
And there she hides the ruthless gale of morn,
Which almost to her heart hath sent its cold!
And now she sudden darts a ravening look,
As one with new hot bread comes past the nook!
And, as the tempting load is onward borne,
She weeps. God help thee, hapless one forlorn!
God help the poor!
God help the poor! Behold yon famish’d Lad;
No shoes nor hose his wounded feet protect;
With limping fait and looks so dreamy sad,
He wanders onward, stopping to inspect
Each window stor’d with articles of food.
He yearns but to enjoy one cheering meal;
Oh! to his hungry palate viands rude
Would yied (sic) yielda zest the famished only feel!
He now devours a crust of mouldy bread;
With teeth and hands the precious boon is torn,
Unmindful of the storm which round his head.
Impetuous sweeps. God help thee, child forlorn!
God help the poor!
God help the poor! Another have I found –
A bow’d and venerable man is he;
His slouched hat with faded crape is bound,
His coat is grey, and threadbare too. I see;
“The rude winds” seem to “mock is hoary head;
His shirtless bosom to the blast is bare.”
Anon he turns, and casts a wistful eye,
And with scant napkin wipes the tears away,
And looks again as if he fain would spy
Friends he had feasted in a better day.
Ah! some are dead, and some have long forborne
To know the poor; and he is left forlorn!
God help the poor!
God help the poor, who in lone cellars dwell,
Or pent-up courts, where pestilence doth grow!
Theirs is a story sad indeed to tell;
Yet little cares the world, and less ‘twoud know
About the painful want they undergo.
The fact’ry no longer calls them up at morn;
They cannot earn the means themselves to keep;
They taste, but are not fed. The children creep
Around the fireless hearth, famish’d and cold;
The night-storm howls a dirge across the fold;
And shall they perish thus, distress’d and lorn?
Shall want and famine hopeless still be borne?
No! God will yet arise, and help the poor!

Title:God Help the Poor


Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:Feb 22nd 1862

Keywords:domesticity, gender, poverty, religion, unemployment


This poem, though published anonymously here, is known to have been written by Samuel Bamford (1788-1872), who was a Rochdale handloom weaver active in politics and literature throughout his life. Indeed, he was present at the Peterloo Massacre and wrote one of the most famous accounts of the atrocity. The poem was written long before the Cotton Famine and was in fact featured in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel about Manchester poverty, Mary Barton, which was published in 1848. The speaker here views various poverty stricken characters and details their appearance and behaviour. The reference to famine in the penultimate line would make it especially pertinent published in this context. – SR