‘Tis hard, ‘tis hard, to wander on through this bright
world of ours,
Beneath a sky of smiling blue, on velvet paths of
With music in the woods, as there were nought but
[joyaunce] known,
Or angels walkt earth’s solitudes, and yet with want to
To see no beauty in the stars, nor inGod’sradiant smile
To [wail] and wander misery curst, willing, but cannot
There’s burning sickness at my heart, I sink down
God of the wretched, hear my prayer: I would that I
were dead!
Heaven droppeth down with manna still in many a golden
And feeds the leaves with fragrant breath, with silver
dew the flow’r.
There’s honeyed fruit for bee and bird, with bloom laughs
out the tree,
And food for all God’shappy things; but none gives
food to me.
Earth, deckt with Plenty’s garland-crown smiles on my
aching eye,
The purse-proud – swathed in luxury – disdainful pass
me by:
I’ve eager hands, and earnest heart – but may not work
for bread
God of the wretched, hear my prayer: I would that I
were dead!
Gold, art thou not a blessed thing, a charm above all
To shut up hearts to Nature’s cry, when brother pleads
with brother?
Hast thou a music sweeter than the voice of loving
No! curse thee, thou’rt a mist ‘twixtGod and men in
outer blindness.
“Father, come back!” my children cry; their voices
once so sweet,
Now quiver [lance] -like in my bleeding heart! I cannot
The looks that make the brain go mad, for dear ones
asking bread ---
God of the wretched, hear my prayer: I would that I
were dead!
Lord! what right have the poor to wed? Love’s for the
gilded great:
Are they not form’d of nobler clay, who dine off golden
‘Tis the worst curse of Poverty to have a failing heart:
Why can I not, with iron-grasp, tear out the tender part?
I cannot slave in yon Bastile! ah no, ‘t were bitterer
To wear the Pauper’s iron within, than drag the convict’s
I’d work but cannot, starve I may, but will not beg for
God of the wretched, hear my prayer: I would that I
were dead.

Title:The Cry of the Unemployed

Author:Gerald Massey

Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:Jan 2, 1864

Keywords:family, politics, poverty, religion, work


This republication during the Cotton Famine of a poem by the famous Chartist poet, Gerald Massey, is significant in that its author was a known radical and republican, nevertheless well respected as a writer and a poet. The poem is bitter in its description of the life of the unemployed, and indeed each stanza ends with a refrain of morbid intent. In various ways the poem suggests that the effects of unemployment go beyond mere second-class citizenship and approach actual dehumanisation, one stanza suggests even the right to a romantic life appears to be denied the poor. For the many who were old enough to remember the ‘Hungry Forties’, when Massey established his literary and political credentials, this apparent hyperbole was resonant and relevant. For more works by this fine writer (and several others) see – SR