It is cold dark midnight, ye listen
To that patter of tiny feet!
Is it one of your dogs, fair lady,
Who whines in the bleak cold street? –
Is it one of your silken spaniels
Shut out in the snow and the sleet?
My dogs sleep warm in their baskets,
Safe from the darkness and snow;
All the beasts in our Christian England
Find pity wherever they go –
(Those are only the homeless children
Who are wandering to and fro.)
Look out in the gusty darkness –
I have seen it again and again,
That shadow that flits so slowly
Up and down past the window pane;
It is surely some criminal lurking
Out there in the frozen rain?
Nay, our criminals are sheltered,
They are pitied, taught, and fed;
That is only a sister-woman
Who has got neither food nor bed –
And the Night cries “Sin to be living,”
And the River cries “Sin to be dead.”
Look out at the farthest corner
Where the wall stands blank and bare: -
Can that be a pack which a pedlar
Has left and forgotten there?
His goods laying out unsheltered
Will be spoilt by the damp night air.
Nay; - goods in our thrifty England
Are not left to lie and grow rotten,
For each man knows the market value
Of silk, or woollen, or cotton –
But in counting the riches of England,
I think our poor are forgotten.
Our beasts, and our thieves, and our chattels
Have weight for good or for ill;
But the poor are only His image,
His presences, His word, His will –
And so Lazarus lies at our doorstep,
And Dives neglects him still.


Author:Adelaide A. Procter

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:25th October 1862

Keywords:homeless, hunger, poverty, religion


This poem by Adelaide A. Procter contrasts the treatment of animals, criminals, and goods, with that of the poor, and particularly the homeless. There are suggestions of the complacent attitude of the rich – references to the ‘silken spaniels’ of a rich lady, for example, and a reminder that the poor are people made in God’s image. Indeed, the poem is replete with biblical references. Proctor was a popular poet at the time and this poem was widely published. – SR