The Easiest Thing in Life.

Every present want supplied;
Not a single wish denied, -
Aching head, nor throbbing heart –
Ease, in quiet, plays his part:
In a room that’s passing fair,
Seated in an easy chair;
Satisfied the inward man
With a feast that others plan;
Soaring up a spiral wreath
With an oriental breath;
Handy, the accustomed cup,
With its contents foaming up;
Here a shade, and there a glow;
“Shut the door, please, gently – soh!”
Should it then aspire to teach
What is wrong and right for each,
Oh! how easy ‘tis to preach!
Affluence beyond to-day,
Smooth the tenure of the way,-
Not a cloud to intervene
The present, and to come, between:
Balance in the banker’s hands;
Tenements a few, and lands;
Shares in that, and shares in this –
(Each a fair investment is);
Int’rest of undoubted worth;
Holding, too, a splendid berth, -
Not a sinecure, ‘tis true,
But without too much to do;
Expectations here and there;
Well off – every way and where;
All to get and not beseech: -
What is wrong and right for each
Yes, ‘tis easy then to preach.
But suppose all this unknown
And uncertainty alone, -
With its may-be bread or stone,
May-be smile, or may-be groan:
Every kind of want to kill;
Many hungry mouths to fill;
Still, a shattered roof to hold;
Backs to shield against the cold;
Nothing here and nothing there,
Pockets empty, cupboards bare;
Excepting hopelessness, despair –
Nothing, nothing, anywhere! –
Stronger than the purpose true,
Stronger than desire to do –
Wrong, the right may over-reach,
In the moral make a breach,
Easy as the wealthy preach!

Title:The Easiest Thing in Life.


Publication:Manchester Examiner

Published in:Manchester

Date:February 1st 1864

Keywords:morality, poverty


This poem is a reaction against the perceived preaching of the wealthier class, and though it does not specifically refer to the Cotton Famine, it details many of the privations associated with it. Indeed it may well be a reaction to the kind of moralising in relation to poverty which increased during the crisis alongside genuine sympathy and relief efforts. The Cotton Famine saw a boost to the Temperance Movement, and several religious organisations offered charity on condition of moral redemption. – SR