January 11th 1862 – The Charities of the Poor CHARITIES OF THE POOR. “BEG FROM A BEGGAR.” – Irish Proverb.

There is a thought so purely blest,
That to its use I oft repair,
When evil breaks my spirit’s rest,
And pleasure is but varied care;
A thought to gild the stormiest skies,
To deck with flowers the bleakest moor, —
A thought whose home is paradise, —
The charities of poor to poor.
It were not for the rich to blame,
If they, whom fortune seems to scorn,
Should vent their ill-content and shame
On others less or more forlorn:
But, that the veriest needs of life
Should be dispens'd with freer hand,
Than all their stores and treasures rife—
Is not for them to understand.
To give the stranger’s children bread.
Of your precarious board the spoil,—
To watch your helpless neighbour’s bed,
And sleepless meet the morrow’s toil;
The gifts not proffer’d once alone,
The daily sacrifice of years.—
And when all else to give is gone,
The precious gifts of love and tears!
Therefore, lament not, honest soul!
That Providence holds back from thee
The means thou might’st so well control—
Those luxuries of charity.
Manhood is nobler, as thou art;
And, should some chance thy coffers fill,
How art thou sure to keep thine art,
To hold unchain’d thy loving will ?
Wealth, like all other power, is blind,
And bears a poison in its core,
To taint the best, if feeble, mind,
And madden that debas’d before.
It is the battle, not the prize,
That fills the hero’s breast with joy;
And industry the bliss supplies,
Which mere possession might destroy.
- Richard Monckton Milnes, M.P.

Title:The Charities of the Poor

Author:Richard Monckton Milnes, M.P.

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:January 11th 1862

Keywords:charity, poverty


This poem by the writer, reformer, and Liberal MP Richard Monckton Milnes begins with the epigraph, “Beg from a Beggar – Irish Proverb” It celebrates generosity in poverty - that those with little to give donate it freely, which has echoes of the New Testament ‘lesson of the widow’s mite’. There is a suggestion that wealth erodes this impulse, that the poor should celebrate their satisfaction in industry rather than possession and not wish for wealth which might lessen this charitable feeling. The Cotton Famine created narratives which helped to sustain social cohesion, and several of these related to the benevolence of the working classes through community projects and examples of individual generosity. – SR