A Plea for the Outcast Children of the Street and of the Abject Poor.

From the hovels, mean and cheerless,
Through whose crazed and tottering walls,
On the dwellers, foodless, fireless,
Winter’s chilling storm-blast falls,
Little voices daily call us—
Call in low and plaintiff tone—
“Aid, oh! aid us, guide and save us,
To our rescue quickly come.”
From the city’s roar and rattle,
Mingled with its busy strife,
Struggling in the grim, stern battle
Of its fight for daily life,
Little careworn wrestlers meet us,
And with tattered garments mean,
Plead for counsel which shall teach them
Virtue’s true reward to win.
Shall these youthful earnest pleaders
Still implore our help in vain?
Shall their tears, and woes, and sorrows
No warm-hearted answer claim?
Shall we leave them still surrounded
By the wolves and vice of sin,
To be torn, and bruised, and wounded,
Outcast, wretched, and undone?
Let us hasten to uplift them,
Gladly let our footsteps move;
Seek to cheer, instruct, enlighten,
With a heart enfired with love.
Sin forsaking, Christ partaking,
May we lead them thus to rise,
O’er all sin at length victorious,
To the glory of the skies.

Title:A Plea for the Outcast Children of the Street and of the Abject Poor.

Author:A Ragged School Teacher

Publication:Preston Guardian

Published in:Preston

Date:March 29th 1862

Keywords:charity, poverty


Published directly beneath Joseph Barnes’ ‘Freedom’s Anthem’, this poem discusses one of the other major moral issues of the day – child poverty. In tone, sentiment, and intended function this poem mirrors Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘The Cry of the Children’ from twenty years before, and it similarly encourages the reader to view poverty through the eyes of those least able to change their circumstance, and least responsible for its causes. The poem purports to be by a teacher from one of the schools set up by charity to give cursory education to the children of the poor – the ‘ragged schools’ – and its heartfelt plea for charitable aid, and at a basic level just awareness, has a clear social function, even as it plays on the reader’s emotion. The Cotton Famine is not directly referenced but was a backdrop to everything in the cotton town of Preston in 1862. By the end of the year fully half of the population of the town were receiving aid due to the pressures of the crisis. – SR