An Episode of the War.

Far better it should be so;
To lie in a pauper’s coffin there,
Than Sin’s temptation to know.
For O, my girl was bonny and fair,
But beauty’s a curse, you see,
When Hunger and Want, Disease and Care,
Such merciless friends can be.
It was for her sake, that, day by day,
My heart grew heavy and sore;
Till hope itself seemed ebbing away
From my life’s dark, sunless shore.
She was starved to death, I say,
Because of the fierce and cruel strife
‘Mid our kinsmen far away.
Man, look on her face, so worn and pale,
On her hands, so white and thin;
Here was a spirit that would not quail
From striving her bread to win!
But yonder, closed, is the factory-gate,
The engine is red with rust;
And what could we do but starve and wait
Till peace should bring us a crust?
With her brother lying ill,
And her father shivering on the step
That leads to the silent mill!
Alone I kneel in my blinding tears—
Alone in my black despair—
My heart o’er burdened with gloomy fears,
Yet far too bitter for prayer!
Why do you prate how the world still grows
More kind and more wise each day?
War’s bloody flame still glitters and glows;
The olives of peace decay!
Oh God! that my curse should fall
On the heads of those whose selfish aims
Have worked such woe for us all!
Man, blame me not for my burning words,
Nor bid me these thoughts disclaim;
For Death has riven the silvery chords
That swelled through my anguish’d frame.
True, I’m only a woman, whose heart
Lies struck by a mortal blow;
But God, how keen is the bleeding smart
A mother alone may know!

Title:An Episode of the War.

Author:John Plummer

Publication:Boston Post

Published in:Boston

Date:October 13th 1862

Keywords:hunger, poverty, war


Although retitled ‘An Episode of the War’ by the Boston Post, this is actually a republication of a poem called ‘A Mother’s Wail’ by the London poet John Plummer. The poem was published in the Bolton Chronicle on the 24th of May 1862, and was included in the original 100 poems published on this website. The retitling is significant in that it takes Plummer’s domestic narrative and internationalises it, emphasising the effect the American war was having on the British economy and ordinary Briton’s lives. – SR