As I sat by the fire on a bleak winter’s day,
When the woods and fields were forlorn;
When the waters were candied all over with ice,
And the keen blast wailed in the thorn;
Across by my window the thick falling snow,
As it drifted upon the wind.
Threw a cold-looking gloom o’er my warm little room
And awoke sad thoughts in my mind.
A small bird came begging to my window sill,
And the snow-drift powdered his breast;
He chirped and he peeped till I threw him some crumbs,
Which he took up aloft to his nest;
Then I shut down the window to keep out the wind,
And I paced o'er my parlour floor;
And I looked at the fire; and I said with a sigh,
“Now's the time to remember the poor!”
Creeping dose to my hearth-stone, so cosy and warm,
Where the wild cold winds I defied.
I began to muse on the sick and forlorn,
And the poor folks that roam outside;
And, trembling to think what the thousands that
In their comfortless nooks endure,
I looked through the window again, and I said—
"Now's the time to remember the poor!"
As yon pale workman creeps through the snow-muffled street,
'Mid the white flakes whirling past,
His frost-bitten bands in his garments so thin
He is hiding away from the blast:
Now he halts by yon kitchen, whose savoury steams
Many a famishing wand'rer allure ;
Then he glides on again like a ghost, through the snow;—
"Now's the time to remember the poor!"
And now, from a corner, that fends off the storm,
He peers, with despair in his eye,
At the fire-lighted windows the warm chimney-top,
And the coach rolling merrily by;
Once more, he goes murmuring slow on his way,
"Lord, how long will this endure?"
And the snow-shroud whirls wild round its shivering prey, —
"Now's the time to remember the poor!"
How little they think, who are cheerful and warm,
While they laugh at the wintry tide,
What the folk that are hungry, the sick and the sad,
In their cold, dark corners abide :
But this life it is short, both to high and to low,
And there’s nought upon earth that's sure :
We were bare when we came, and bare we must go,—
"Now's the time to remember the poor!"

Title:Remember the Poor

Author:Edwin Waugh

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:24th January 1863

Keywords:charity, morality, poverty, work


Possibly Edwin Waugh’s most famous non-dialect poem, this piece is very evocative in its imagery, contrasting the beauty of winter with its devastating effects on those without adequate food or shelter. The first few lines echo the themes and register of some of Coleridge’s ‘conversation poems’, but Waugh skilfully turns each stanza towards his repeated moral imperative of relief and charity. – SR