Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

THE PRINTER'S SONG.

99

II. THE PRINTER'S SONG.

“ What, indeed, will be the particular effects, in the first instance, of that general diffusion of knowledge which the art of printing must sooner or later produce, and of that spirit of reformation with which it cannot fail to be accompanied, it is beyond the reach of human sagacity to conjecture; but unless we choose to abandon ourselves entirely to a desponding scepticism, we must hope and believe that the progress of human reason can never be a source of permanent disorder to the world; and that they alone have cause to apprehend the consequences, who are led, by the imperfection of our present institutions, to feel themselves interested in perpetuating the prejudices, and follies of their species.”— Stewart's Philosophy.

PRINT, comrades, print; a noble task

Is the one we gaily ply;
'Tis ours to tell to all who ask

The wonders of earth and sky.
We catch the thought, all glowing warm,

As it leaves the student's brain,
And place the stamp of enduring form
On the poet's airy strain.

Then, let us sing, as we nimbly fling

The slender letters round
A glorious thing is our labouring,

Oh, where may its like be found ?

Print, comrades, print; the fairest thought

Ever limned in painter's dream,
The rarest form e'er sculptor wrought

By the light of beauty's gleam,
Though lovely, may not match the power

Which our proud art can claim-
That links the past with the present hour,
And its breath—the voice of fame.

Then, let us sing, as we nimbly fling

The slender letters round-
A glorious thing is our labouring,

Oh, where may its like be found ?

Print, comrades, print; God hath ordained

That man by his toil should live;
Then spurn the charge that we disdained
The labour that God would give!

We envy not the sons of ease,

Nor the lord in princely hall,
But bow before the wise decrees
In kindness meant for all.

Then, let us sing, as we nimbly fling

The slender letters round-
A glorious thing is our labouring,
Oh, where may its like be found ?

ANONYMOUS.

III. THE SONG OF THE SHIRT. Manual labour, though an unavoidable duty, though designed as a blessing, and naturally both a pleasure and a dignity, is often abused, till, by its terrible excess, it becomes really a punishment and a curse. It is only a proper amount of work that is a blessing. Too much of it wears out the body before its time; cripples the mind, debases the soul, blunts the senses, and chills the affections. It makes a man a spinning-jenny, or a ploughing-machine, and not "a being of a large discourse, that looks before and after. He ceases to be a man, and becomes a thing.”Parker.

With fingers weary and worn,

With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread.
Stitch! stitch ! stitch !

In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang

the Song of the Shirt !”
“ Work! work! work!

While the cock is crowing aloof!
And work! work! work!
Till the stars shine through the roof!
It's O! to be a slave

Along with the barbarous Turk,
Where woman has never a soul to save,

If this is Christian work !
" Work! work! work!

Till the brain begins to swim ;
Work! work! work !
Till the eyes are heavy and dim!
Seam, and gusset, and band,

Band, and gusset, and seam,
Till over the buttons I fall asleep,

And sew them on in a dream!

THE SONG OF THE SHIRT.

101

“ Oh, men! with sisters dear!

Oh, men ! with mothers and wives !
It is not linen you're wearing out,
But human creatures' lives!
Stitch! stitch ! stitch !

In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
Sewing, at once, with a double thread,

A shroud as weil as a shirt.

“ But why do I talk of Death ?

That phantom of grisly bone,
I hardly fear his terrible shape,
It seems so like my own-
It seems so like my own,

Because of the fasts I keep,
Oh, God! that bread should be so dear,

And flesh and blood so cheap!

• Work ! work! work !

My labour never flags ;
And what are its wages ? a bed of straw,
A crust of bread and rags.
That shatter'd roof--and this naked floor

A table-a broken chair !
And a wall so blank, my shadow I thank

For sometimes falling there !

“ Work ! work! work !

From weary chime to chime,
Work! work! work !
As prisoners work for crime !
Band, and gusset, and seam,

Seam, and gusset and band,
Till the heart is sick, and the brain benumb’d,

As well as the weary hand.

“ Work ! work! work !

In the dull December light;
And work! work! work!
When the weather is warm and bright!
While underneath the eaves

The brooding swallows cling,
As if to show me their sunny backs,

And twit me with the spring.

Oh! but to breathe the breath

Of the cowslip and primrose sweet!
With the sky above my head,
And the grass beneath my feet.
For only one short hour

To feel as I used to feel,
Before I knew the woes of want,

And the walk that costs a meal !

“Oh, but for one short hour !

A respite, however brief!
No blessed leisure for love or hope,
But only time for grief !
A little weeping would ease my heart,

But in their briny bed
My tears must stop, for every drop

Hinders needle and thread !”
With fingers weary and worn,

With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sate in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread!
Stitch ! stitch! stitch !

In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch,
Would that its tone could reach the Rich !
She
sang

Song of the Shirt !”

this “

[ocr errors]

*

IV. THE LAY OF THE LABOURER. “I HAVE no propensity to envy any one, least of all the rich and great; but if I were disposed to this weakness, the subject of my envy would be, a healthy young man, in full possession of his strength and faculties, going forth in a morning to work for his wife and children, or bringing them home his wages at night. * * I (God knows) could not get my livelihood by labour, nor would the labourer find any solace or enjoyment in my studies. If we were to exchange conditions to-morrow, all the effect would be, that we both should be more miserable, and the work of both be worse done. Without debating, therefore, what might be very difficult to decide, which of our two conditions was better to begin with, one point is certain, that it is best for each to remain in his own. The change, and the only change to be desired, is that gradual and progressive improvement of our circumstances which is the natural fruit of successful industry; when each year is something better than the last; when we are enabled to add to our little household one article after another of new comfort or conveniency, as our profits increase, or our burden becomes less;

THE LAY OF THE LABOURER.

103

and, what is best of all, when we can afford, as our strength declines, to relax our labours, or divide our cares. This may be looked forward to, and is practicable by great numbers in a state of public order and quiet; it is absolutely impossible in any other.”-- Paley.

A SPADE! a rake! a hoe!

A pickaxe, or a bill !
A hook to reap, or a scythe to mow,

A flail, or what ye will.
And here's a ready hand

To ply the needful tool,
And skill'd enough, by lessons rough,

In labour's rugged school.
To hedge, or dig the ditch,

To lop or fell the tree,
To lay the swarth on the sultry field,

Or plough the stubborn lea;
The harvest stack to bind,

The wheaten rick to thatch,
And never fear in my pouch find

The tinder or the match.
To a flaming barn or farm

My fancies never roam ;
The fire I yearn to kindle and burn

Is the hearth of Home;
Where children huddle and crouch

Through dark long winter days,
Where starving children huddle and crouch

To see the cheerful rays,
A-glowing on the haggered cheek,

And not in the haggard’s blaze!
To Him who sends a drought

To parch the fields forlorn,
The rain to flood the meadows with mud,

The blight to blast the corn,
To Him I leave to guide

The bolt in its crooked path,
To strike the miser's rick, and show

The skies blood-red with wrath,
A spade ! a rake! a hoe!

A pickaxe, or a bill !
A hook to reap, or a scythe to mow,

A flail, or what ye will

« ForrigeFortsæt »