CORN LAW RHYMES;
BENJAMIN STEILL, PATERNOSTER ROW.
J. PEARCE, SHEFFIELD.
HIS MOST GRACIOUS MAJESTY,
William the fourth,
THE PATRIOTIC KING,
By granting to his faithful people a new charter of
has secured, to unborn millions,
The means of National Prosperity
and to himself their blessings upon his memory.
Presenting, it is believed, a true picture of that
which is not happiness, nor the cause of it,
IS MOST HUMBLY AND THANKFULLY
BY HIS MAJESTY'S FREE, LOYAL,
AND DEVOTED SUBJECT,
IF one third, at least, of the nominal value of all fixed property in England is unreal, have we not among us not a few little Grand Seigniors, who, like Lear in the play,
"have pared themselves on both sides, and left nothing in the
Pardon us, Squire Mushroom!—For a quarter per cent. upon three farthings, we know, you would sacrifice the best hopes of the human race for
ever:—but pray, are those fine houses your own?—They are, fellow, every
brick!—So much the better for the money lenders. But if you will deduct twenty-five per cent. from the cost price of the bricks, seventy per cent. from that of the wood, and thirty-five per cent. from that of the labour employed in the construction of those tax-mortgaged villas, you will see, in the remainder, one of the results of the uses to which the steam-engine of James Watt has been applied in this
country; and, perhaps, you will then ask yourself whether that engine might not have been much better employed than in spinning taxes, paying for anti-jacobin wars, and beggaring ourselves to set up our
neighbours? Whether such a power ought to remain in the hands of those who have applied it to diabolical purposes, is a great question which the Giver of all Good, in his own good time, will answer.
When it shall be possible to go on a rail-road twenty miles to dinner, and return in two hours, who will give a thousand pounds for an acre of garden ground, merely because it happens to be situated within two miles of a large
town? Or, when the Corn Laws, and similar insanities shall have destroyed our manufactures, what will be the value of a suburban villa, which, in the year 1831, cost three thousand
pounds? Gentlemen Mortgagees! you can count ten on your fingers.
Is there any safe investment whatever for capital in this country, except land let on lease, and on which fine houses have been built by sages, who patronize taxes on bread, and other anti-profit
laws? If there be not, why does Squire Grub call us the rabble?
If wheat, like cotton cloth, be a manufactured article, and if English cotton cloth can be bought nearly as cheap at Calcutta, as at Manchester, why might not Polish wheat be bought, with our manufactures quite as cheap at Hull as at
Dantzic? And when wheat can be bought as cheap at Hull as at Dantzic, what will be the value of an acre of tax-ploughed land any where in
If the lands of England be mortgaged to the amount of one third of their nominal value, and if the nominal exceed the real value by one half, is not the monied interest, in fact, the
landed?—and are not the landlords, with a few ever-grown exceptions, mere tenants at
will? If the landlords be mere tenants at will, why are a few
middle-men,—sub-letters of farms, permitted by the proprietors, or by the State, to ruin a whole people? Are the mortgagees themselves ambitious of the glory of martyrdom in the holy cause of Big Beggar and
Company? Thanes of the Splendid Village! the least of your
insolvent gods is, in evil power, if not in purpose, more than a Guy Faux.
Do not you furnish the gun-powder?—Listen to facts!
The city of Magdeburgh, which boasts a population of thirty thousand inhabitants, has a public garden of one hundred and twenty acres. This garden adjoins the walls of the
city; and the land, which is some of the richest in Europe, with the river Elbe flowing through it, cost, planting included, four thousand pounds.
The same quantity of land, very inferior in quality, could not be purchased at Sheffield, if at all, for twenty thousand pounds,
unplanted! Now, what are the causes of this vast difference in the price of land at Magdeburgh, as compared with the price at
Sheffield? The superior population and wealth of England cannot be the
causes; for the population of Prussia is scarcely less dense than that of England; and though the Prussians are not blessed with Corn Laws, or with paupers, great or small, they are making scissors at four-pence a pair, equal to Sheffield scissors at one
shilling! What connection then is there, between the comparative cheapness of land in densely-peopled Prussia, and the ability of the Prussians to under-sell us two hundred per cent. in
cutlery? If the fair price of wheat be forty shillings per quarter, and the forced price in England sixty shillings, do we not lose one quarter by the purchase of two, and is not the loss a direct premium paid by us to our rivals, for our own destruction?
Thanes of the Splendid Village! think of these
things! If you have been engaged since you arrived at years of indiscretion, in patronizing ruin by act of
parliament; if your whole lives have been spent in sapping the very foundations of society, wonder not, should the floor of the social edifice sink suddenly beneath your feet, and the roof descend on your heads in
thunder! But if nothing less than the most horrible of catas trophes will satisfy you,
persevere! You will soon rind, that your grand epergne, plated with sham silver, is not the palaced pauper's magnificent plate, bought with our sweat and
blood; and that your poney-killing cab, with its scientific wheels, the triumph of tory legislation, is not the coach and four, madly horsed by the bread-tax, to drag our domestic enemies down a precipice of their own making.
If in your hearts you have always been identified with our oppressors, you should not have failed to tell them, after their battle of Waterloo, that, by converting our customers into rivals, they would probably become vagabonds on the king's highway, literally begging their
bread: seeing, that a time would arrive when, if we could neither make a pair of fourpenny scissors for fourpence, nor continue to sell a pair of fourpenny scissors for a shilling, there would be laughter and weeping at strange tragi-comedies. We address not these words to you for our own
sakes; we want not your assistance;—we value not the thoughts of men whose thoughts are
obsolete:—but we could not stand still, if we would; move we must, and we can move without, or with
you;—perhaps, best without you. Still we respectfully beg leave to hint, that although your grand epergne is only plated, you really bought it with your own
money; and that, but for the misdeeds of the Bashaws whom you have too long imitated and supported, that epergne would have been like the tankard of your honest
ancestor—not plated, but massive and solid, as well as brilliant.
Read, then our poem; a poem not base, not servile, yet, strange to say, altogether
British.—Only in a sinking land, a land of taxation without representation, of castes and cornbills, of degradation, cant, and
misery; of wretched poor, and wretch-making rich; where destruction grows like a weed, and where capital and skill are alike profitless, could such a poem as,
"The Splendid Village" have been written or conceived:—but if wars and taxation, Corn Laws, and restricted industry, the landlords and their victims, the degradation of our once noble peasantry, and the triumphant march of British capital, seeking profitable employment in foreign
lands,—if these are now the Muses that inspire the poets of England, the fault rests
with—whom? Not with the poet of trade and the rabble.
A few words more. An election is at hand;—the counties have been divided for the especial accommodation of the landlords. If they will act wisely and honestly, we will advise our representatives to vote for a gradual extinction of the bread tax. But if they make a factious cry of the Corn Laws, we will ask them, in reply to their declaration of war, how many millions of acres of land they have stolen from the
poor?—how many hundred millions sterling they have wrung from us in forced rents, since the battle of
Waterloo? and other similar questions, which all their possessions could not answer.
In the meantime, we suggest, that an immediate extinction of the bread tax which their imprudence could not fail to ensure, would convert them all into hawkers of farms, in less than two
years: why should it not? But, perhaps, they will be diverted from making a factious cry of the Corn Laws, by a clamour for Pitt's incontrovertible ones.
In that case, they will stay at home, or consent to receive in Paris fifty pounds for a hundred pound bill on England.
If, however, they perservere, and succeed, by their factious cry, in giving a few years longer life to the Corn Laws, they will destroy the trade of England, and annihilate
rent! They must then farm their own lands, and sell their wheat at Hanburgh or Amsterdam, for forty shillings per quarter, out of which they must pay twelve shillings per quarter
expenses,—instead of obtaining for it, what, with a free trade, they might probably obtain,
namely,—the average price of Europe, and the freight, and merchants' profit beside.
Who will then be our landlords? Rather, who will keep their mortgagees? No
matter—when we meet in the Workhouse—if Workhouse then will be,—we will talk to them about the grapery.
THE SPLENDID VILLAGE.
IN TWO PARTS.
Part the first
THE WANDERER RETURNED.
YES, ye green Hills, that to my soul restore
The verdure which in happier days it wore!
And thou, glad stream, in whose deep waters lav'd
Fathers, whose children were not then enslav'd!
Yes, I have roam'd where Freedom's spirit fires
The stern descendants of self-exil'd sires;
Men, who transcend the herd of human kind.
A foot in stature, half a man in mind.
But tir'd, at length, I seek my native home,
Resolv'd no more in gorgeous wilds to roam;
Again I look on thee, thou loveliest stream!
And, seeming poor, am richer than I seem.
Too long in woods the forest-Arab ran,
A lonely, mateless, childless, homeless man;
Too long I paced the ocean and the wild—
Clinging to Nature's breast, her petted child;
But only plough'd the seas to sow the wind,
And chased the sun to leave my soul behind.
But when hot youth's and manhood's pulses cool'd,
When pensive thought my failing spirit school'd—
Lur'd by a vision which, where'er I rove,
Still haunts me with the blush of earliest love—
A vision, present still, by night, by day,
Which not Niagara's roar could chase away—
I left my palace, with its roof of sky,
To look again on Hannah's face, and die,
I saw, in thought, beyond the billow's roar,
My mother's grave—and then my tears ran o'er!
And then I wept for Hannah, wrong'd, yet true!
I could not—no—my wasted life renew;
But I could wiselier spend my wiser years,
And mix a smile with sinking vigour's tears.
Sweet Village! where my early days were pass'd!
Though parted long, we meet—we meet at last!
Like friends, embrown'd by many a sun and wind,
Much chang'd in mien, but more in heart and mind.
Fair, after many years, thy fields appear,
With joy beheld, but not without a tear.
I met thy little river miles before
I saw again my natal cottage door;
Unchang'd as truth, the river welcom'd home
The wanderer of the sea's heart-breaking foam;
But the chang'd cottage, like a time-tried friend,
Smote on my heart-strings, at my journey's end.
For now no lilies bloom the door beside;
The very houseleek on the roof hath died;
The window'd gable's ivy-bower is gone,
The rose departed from the porch of stone;
The pink, the violet, have fled away,
The polyanthus, and auricula!
And round my home, once bright with flowers, I
Not one square yard—one foot of garden ground.
With gun in hand, and insolence of eye,
A sun-burn'd menial, as I came, drew nigh;
By might empower'd small felons to deter,
Constable, publican, and warrener.
He met me, muttering—"I should know this tramp;"
He pass'd me, muttering "Vagabond" and "Scamp;"
And, as a beadle eyes a thief, he cast
A keen glance at the cottage, as he pass'd.
My brother dwelt within. 'Tis true, he took
My offer'd hand, but froze me with a look
So trouble-worn and lost, so hard yet dull,
That I shrank from him, though my heart was full;
I sought society, but stood alone;
I came to meet a man, and found a stone!
His wife, in tatters, watch'd the fireless grate;
Three boys sate near her, all in fierce debate,
And all in rags—but one constructing snares,
With which, at night, to choke Lord Borough's hares.
My sister, Rose, had parish-pay, they said,
And Ann was sent abroad, and Jane was dead;
And these misfortunes laid my sire beside
The mother, who in better days had died.
Such welcome found the wanderer of the deep!
I had no words—I sobb'd, but could not weep.
Well, here I am, resolv'd to view the land—
Inquire and ponder—hear, and understand.
The cucking-stool is gone, the stocks remain;
Why either? or not both? ye stocks, explain!
Chang'd scene! unchang'd yon frosted tower remains;
Beneath the hill, it peers o'er vales and plains;
And, like a patriarch of the olden time,
Sees age around, but none like his sublime.
Ere yon huge house, with jail-like frown, displac'd
The wild brier roses of the thymy waste,
There, near the church, the stocks, and cucking-stool,
Abode the sovereign of the village school.
A half-fac'd man, too timid for his trade,
And paid as timid men are ever paid;
He taught twelve pupils for six pounds a-year,
Made a consumption, and was buried here.
None said of him, he reap'd the crop he grew,
And liv'd by teaching what he never knew.
His school is gone, but still we have a school,
Kept by an ignoramus—not a fool;
For o'er his mansion, written large, we see
"Mister John Suckemwell's Academy;"
A boarding-school, where gentlemen are taught
To write fine copies, which the teacher wrote!
Behold the usher:—I behold and start!
For in his face I read a broken heart.
Servant of servants, brow-beat by a knave!
Why, for a coffin, labour like a slave?
Better break granite on the King's highway
Than earn, with Porson's powers, a pauper's pay.
Why die to live? I know a wiser plan—
An easier too—black shoes, and be a man!
Village! thy butcher's son, the steward now,
Still bears the butcher on his burly brow.
Oft with his sire he deigns to ride and stare;
And who like them, at market or at fair?
King of the inn, he takes the highest place,
And carves the goose, and grimly growls the grace.
There, in the loud debate, with might—with might,
Still speaks he last, and conquers still the right;
Red as a lobster, vicious as his horse,
That, like its master, worships fraud and force,
And if the stranger 'scape its kick or bite,
Low'rs its vex'd ears, and screams for very spite.
"He hath enough, thank God, to wear and eat;
He gives no alms"—not ev'n his putrid meat;
"But keeps his cab, whips beggars from his door,
Votes for my Lord, and hates the thankless poor."
Hail, Sister Hills, that from each other hide,
With belts of evergreen, your mutual pride!
Here reigns, in placid splendour, Madam Grade,
Whose husband nobly made a plum in trade.
And yonder glitters Rapine's bilious slave,
The lucky footman of a palac'd knave;—
Stern foe of learning, genius, press, and pen,
Who lauds all laws that ruin honest men.
Sublime in Satrap-imitating state,
She for her daughter seeks a titled mate;
None other, not an angel wing'd from Heav'n,
Could woo, or ask to woo, and be forgiv'n.
Too oft, perhaps, she calls her neighbour, "Scrub!"
Yet justly scorns the mean corruption-grub;
For many a "ruptur'd Ogden" hath he wrong'd,
Long gloating on the captive's chain prolong'd.
He hates and apes her pomp, with upstart haste;
But what in him is pride, in her is taste.
She, queen-like, smiles; he, blustering, crams and
And weighs his greatness by the trout he eats.
She never dogg'd a beggar from her lawn,
And he would hang all dogs that will not fawn.
Yet, Clerk of taxes, Magistrate, and Squire,
Why to be Premier may not he aspire?—
But what is he that haunts this upstart's door—
Yon fat, good fellow, who detests the poor—
Yon mass of meanness, baseness, grease, and bone—
Yon jolly soul, that weighs just eighteen stone?
Unmatch'd in quibble, great in If and But,
Sublime in cant, superlative in smut;
He jests, as none but British worthies can,
Laughs at despair, spurns, tramples fallen man;
Condemns misfortune for its wrongs and woe,
And bids his victim thank him for a blow.
Sworn friends are they, Squire Woolpack and
One is their creed—"Impoverish! torture! crush!"
Behold two models, unexcell'd on earth,
Of British wisdom, loyalty, and worth!
Broad Beech! thyself a grove! five hundred years
Speak in thy voice, of bygone hopes and fears;
And mournfully—how mournfully!—the breeze
Sighs through thy boughs, and tells of cottages
That, happy once, beneath thy shadow gaz'd
On poor men's fields, which poor men's cattle graz'd!
Now, where three cotters and their children dwelt,
The lawyer's pomp alone is seen and felt;
And the park-entrance of his acres three
Uncrops the ground which fed a family.
What then? All see he is a man of state,
With his three acres, and his park-like gate!
Besides, in time, if times continue dark,
His neighbour's woes may buy his gate a park.
O, then, let trade wear chains, that toil may find
No harvests on the barren sea and wind;
Nor glean, at home, the fields of every zone,
Nor make the valleys of all climes his own;
But, with the music of his hopeless sigh,
Charm the blind worm that feeds on poverty!
Lo! where the water-caster once abode,
The pinfold, erst his garden, skirts the road!
His ample cot, erewhile not ample call'd,
Is now, with lath and lime partition, wall'd:
The humble dwelling of the leech divine
Makes six large styes for thirty human swine.
Oh, could he see what woes his house contains,
What wretched remnants cram its broken panes,
How would he swell with righteous rage, and ban
Ice-hearted Law's forc'd charity to man!
For warmer heart than his did never beat!
Dup'd by himself, yet hated he deceit;
And, pleas'd, he taught my boyhood how to draw
The woe-mark'd cowslip, and the thrush-lov'd haw;
And how to make sweet pictures of wild flowers,
Cull'd in lone lanes, when glow'd the sultry hours,
Then press'd, and dried, and all on lawn dispread,
To look as infants do, that smile when dead.
Learned he was: nor bird, nor insect flew,
But he its leafy home and history knew;
Nor wild-flower deck'd the rock, nor moss the well,
But he its name and qualities could tell.
Yes, he was learned—not with learning big,
Like yon budge doctor of the whip and wig,
Who writes in Latin, sucks the sick select,
Speaks in the Babylonish dialect,
And drives his pair. Great man, Sir!—all who thrive
Are cured of colds and cash, by Doctor Drive.
Behold his mansion, southward of the grove,
Complete with coach-house—piggery—alcove!
And, mark! the entrance hath an air of state—
Not copied from the lawyer's park-like gate!
Two stone-throws from the Hall of Doctor Drive,
And from the village Workhouse four or five,
Where the swung Turkey, with its plumage rough,
Welcomes all loyal men who drink enough,
The flying curate lodges—doom'd to say
Three well-known sermons every Sabbath-day.
His donkey, like a rat without a tail,
Cost fifty shillings, and o'er hill and dale
Bears his lean master, at a hunter's pace,
Duly as comes his weekly steeple-chase.
The rector—a queer plural, one and three,
Yet not quite singular in trilogy,—
Who, scandal says, is cousin to my lord—
Would pay him better, but he can't afford.
He lives, they say, in London, and so forth;
His country house is somewhere in the North.
Mine host much miss'd him when he left the lodge,
For fewer warrants summon Jem and Hodge.
Hail, ancient Inn! once kept by Margaret Rose,
Ere England's wrongs began, and labour's woes;
Inn of the happy village! where, of old,
Before the bright yule log, my father told
His well-known story of the wolf and child,
While—not at him—the tickled youngsters smil'd;
And sturdy peasants, and the annual guest,
Prais'd the stout ale, but thought their own was best.
When Margaret reign'd, no wanderer pass'd thy door,
Dame Margaret's heart felt ever for the poor;
And, well they knew, to homeless son or sire
She ne'er denied a seat beside the fire,
Nor curs'd away the widow, stooping low
Beneath the double weight of age and woe.
But times are chang'd and alter'd is the inn,
For God is wroth, and Britain rife with sin.
The village, happy once, is splendid now!
And at the Turkey reigns, with knotted brow,
Stiff as a mile-stone, set up in his bar,
Vice-regal Constable and Bailiff, Marr,
Who nods his "yes," and frowns his fatal "no."
Woe to the scrimp that ventures near him, woe!
He, she, or it—"swag's nifle, skink, or trull,"
Shall find a bed, or Wakefield's gaol is full!
Great man, John Marr! He shoots—or who else may?
He knows my Lord, is loyal, and can pay.
The poor all hate him, fear him—all save one;
Broad Jem, the poacher, dreaded is by John.
To draw him drink, objects nor man nor maid;
The froth is brought, Jem winks, and John is paid;
For John, who hates all poachers, likes poor Jem,
While Jem, so kind to others, growls at him;
And when their fierce eyes meet, the tax-made slave
Quakes in his inmost soul, if soul he have,
Thinking of weasand slit by lantern light,
Or slug bang'd through him at the dead of night.
Yet great is he! rich, prudent, tried, and true:
He snores at sermon in his curtain'd pew—
He knows the Steward—he is known afar
To magistrates and bums—great man, John Marr!
Where yon red villa flares before the wood,
The cottage of my Hannah's father stood;
That woodbin'd cottage, girt with orchard trees,
Last left, and earliest found, by birds and bees:
And where the river winds, gnarl'd oaks between,
Squatter'd his drake, and diving ducks were seen;
While scooting hares oft sought this summit bare,
If lightning glinted through the glooming air.
But where dwells Hannah now? And where is he?—
Gone, like the home of her nativity.
And what vain dame, and what suburban Thane,
The site of Hannah's lovely home profane?
Who dash'd the plum-trees from the blossomy ridge?
From bank to bank, who threw the baby bridge,
Where the huge elm, which twenty bullocks drew,
Plank'd o'er with ash, and rootless, sternly grew,
While plumy ferns wept o'er the waters dark,
Sad for his fall; and, rooted in his bark,
A world of mosses forested the side
Of that fall'n Forest King, to soothe his pride?
What dandy Goth the heav'n-made arch displac'd,
To show in painted spars his want of taste?
A mortgag'd magnate and a sage is he:
His maxims have a deep philosophy.
"Hateful," he saith, "and vulgar is the flat,
Who deigns to see a poor man touch his hat,
Or serves a beggar, though her curtsey fall,
Or of the rabble does not take the wall."
Squire Grub is proud—for pride and meanness blam'd,
Yet poor as proud, and of his wants asham'd.
Lo! there he struts—the silk-legged King of Cant!
Who thanks the Blessed powers for crime and want,
Prays to his Demon of Despotic sway
And hymns his God of Carnage! Let him pray!
Yes, pray for strength or weakness, to sustain
The weight of scorn that will crush in his brain,
Ere from the workhouse, like a ghost, he go
To mate with madmen, in their den of woe,
And tell them that he is not poor—not he;—
But lord of vast estates—in Chancery.
Path of the quiet fields! that oft of yore
Call'd me at morn, on Shenstone's page to pore:
O poor man's footpath! where, at evening's close,
He stoop'd, to pluck the woodbine and the rose,
Shaking the dew-drops from the wild-brier bowers,
That stoop'd beneath their load of summer flowers,
Then ey'd the west, still bright with fading flame,
As whistling homeward by the wood he came;
Sweet, dewy, sunny, flowery footpath, thou
Art gone for ever, like the poor man's cow!
No more the wandering townsman's sabbath smile—
No more the hedger, waiting on the stile
For tardy Jane—no more the muttering bard,
Startling the heifer, near the lone farm-yard—
No more the pious youth, with book in hand,
Spelling the words he fain would understand,
Shall bless thy mazes, when the village bell
Sounds o'er the river, soften'd up the dell:
But from the parlour of the loyal inn,
The Great Unpaid, who cannot err nor sin,
Shall see, well-pleas'd, the pomp of Lawyer Ridge,
And poor Squire Grub's starv'd maids, and dandy
Where youngling fishers, in the grassy lane,
Purloin'd their tackle from the brood-mare's mane—
And truant urchins, by the river's brink,
Caught the fledged throstle as it stoop'd to drink—
Or with the ramping colt all joyous play'd,
Or scar'd the owlet in the blue-belled shade.
Churl Jem! why dost thou thrust me from the
I hack no cab, I sham no servant's hall:
Coarse is my coat:—how have I earn'd thy curse?
Suspect'st thou there is money in my purse?
I said, "Good day, Sir," and I touch'd my hat:
Art thou, then, vulgar, as the Sage is flat?
Alas! that Sage sees not in thy fierce eyes
Fire-flooded towers, and pride, that shrieks and dies;
The red-foam'd deluge, and the sea-wide tomb;
The arm of vengeance, and the brow of doom;
The grin of millions o'er the shock of all—
A people's wreck, an empire's funeral!
Part the Second.
THE WANDERER DEPARTED.
DEAR Village! changed—how changed from what
Thy good to bane thy beggar-kings convert.
They say that, discontented with our lot,
We envy wealth, because we have it not;
That, could we call yon glowing pile our own,
No wight alive would hear our tuneful groan.
They ask why writhes the serpent on our brow?
When prosper'd England as she prospers now?
They err. We envy not the pomp we see,
But hate that wealth which makes our poverty.
If talent thrive, and enterprise prevail,
Restore to rustic toil his beef and ale;
Be few, or many, splendid, as they can,
But let not misery make a fiend of man!
Yes, splendid mansions now these shades adorn,
But wretched children in these huts are born!
There dwell the heirs of unremitting toil,
Who till, but not in hope, a teeming soil;
While Erin's hordes contest with them the plain,
And competition low'rs the price of pain.
What though proud homes their lofty roofs uprear,
If humble homes and comfort disappear?
O baneful splendour! that but glitters o'er
What may be ruin, and is bliss no more!
As beacons fired on some far mountain's brow,
Shimmer o'er hamlets, black with plague, below,
Where health once glow'd in every fearless face,
And in the motions of all forms was grace—
I look on pomp, that apes a bloated crew,
While beggar'd millions hate the biggen'd few.
Like rocks of ice our fatal wealth is found;
Not like the sea, that spreads those rocks around:
Hark! o'er their peaks a wild and bird-like wail
Tells of approaching thunder, fire, and hail!
Lo! at their feet, while cold and bright they sleep,
Mines hunger's fathomless and boundless deep!
Feast of the Village!—yearly held, when June
Sate with the rose, to hear the gold-spink's tune,
And lovers, happy as the warbling bird,
Breathed raptures sweeter than the songs they heard,
Stealing through lanes, sun-bright with dewy broom,
By fragrant hedge-rows, sheeted o'er with bloom;—
Feast of the happy Village! where art thou?
Pshaw! thou wert vulgar—we are splendid now.
Yet, poor man's pudding!—rich with spicy crumbs,
And tiers of currants, thick as both my thumbs—
Where art thou, festal pudding of our sires?—
Gone, to feed fat the heirs of thieves and liars;—
Gone, to oppress the wrong'd, the true, the brave,
And, wide and deep, dig Poland's second grave;—
Gone, like the harvest pie, a bullock's load,
Four feet across, with crust six inches broad;—
Gone, like poor England's Satrap-swallow'd store;—
Gone, as her trade will go, to come no more!
Well, let it go, and with it the glad hours
That yearly o'er kind hearts shed cottage flowers.
Nor sisters' daughters now, nor sons of sons,
Shall seek the bridge, where still the river runs,
And bless the roof where busy hands prepared
The festal plenty which their fathers shar'd;
When, round their grandsire met, his numerous race
Beheld their children's children in his face;
Saw in his eyes the light of suns gone down,
And hoped they saw in his white locks their own.
No more, no more, beneath his smile serene,
The generations shall in joy convene,
All eager to obey the annual call,
And twang the chord of love that bound them all.
When daisies blush, and windflowers wet with dew;
When shady lanes with hyacinths are blue;
When the elm blossoms o'er the brooding bird,
And, wild and wide, the plover's wail is heard
Where melts the mist on mountains far away,
'Till morn is kindled into brightest day;
No more the shouting youngsters shall convene,
To play at leap-frog on the village-green,
While lasses, ripening into love, admire,
And youth's first raptures cheer the gazing sire.
The Green is gone! and barren splendours gleam,
Where hiss'd the gander at the passing team,
And the gay traveller from the city prais'd
The poor man's cow, and, weary, stopp'd and gaz'd.
Where yon broad mansion's tax-built drawing-room
Displays its cornic'd-gold, dwelt Mary Broom,—
(Close by the marble hearth her garden smil'd,)—
The widow'd mother of an only child.
I saw her to the house of marriage move,
And weeping o'er the grave of hope and love.
Now, where the woe-worn and the weary rest,
The child is sleeping on its mother's breast.
Not long she mourn'd in duty's lonely shade,—
No praise expecting—and she ask'd no aid,
But toil'd and faded silently, and stood
Alike unnotic'd by the bad and good,
Dropping meek tears into the sea of days,—
Like a pale flower, that, all unseen, displays
Its pensive beauty on a river's brink,
While overhead the stars rush wild and wink,
And shadows, cast on earth at night's bright noon,
Move with the clouds, that chase the full-orb'd moon.
Oh, happy! with her own proud crust supplied,
In her own bed, a Britoness she died!
In her own shroud her modest state she keeps!
In her own coffin, gloriously, she sleeps!
Not thus the brother of her soul would die;
O'er him, poor pauper, none will heave a sigh;
No windflower, emblem of his youth, be laid
To blush for promise in its bloom decay'd;
Nor, emblem of his age, and hopeless pain,
The dismal daisy of sad autumn's wane:
But workhouse idiots, and the limping slave,
In four rough boards shall bear him to his grave.
Where is the Common, once with blessings rich,—
The poor man's Common?—Like the poor man's flitch
And well-fed ham, which erst his means allow'd,
'Tis gone to bloat the idle and the proud!
To raise high rents! and low'r low profits!—Oh,
To-morrow of the Furies! thou art slow!
But where, thou tax-plough'd waste, is now the hind
Who lean'd on his own strength, his heart and mind?
Where is the matron, with her busy brow?
Their sheep, where are they? and their famous cow?
Their strutting game-cock, with his many queens?
Their glowing hollyoaks, and winter greens?
The chubby lad, that cheer'd them with his look,
And shar'd his breakfast with the home-bred rook?
The blooming girls, that scour'd the snow-white pail,
Then wak'd with joy the echoes of the vale,
And, laden homewards, near the sparkling rill,
Cropp'd the first rose that blush'd beneath the hill?
All vanish'd—with their rights, their hopes, their lands,
The shoulder-shaking grasp of hearts and hands;
The good old joke, applauded still as new;
The wond'rous printed tale, which must be true;
And the stout ale, that show'd the matron's skill,
For, not to be improv'd, it mended still!
Now, lo! the young look base, as greybeard guile!
The very children seem afraid to smile!
But not afraid to scowl, with early hate,
At would-be greatness, or the greedy great;
For they who fling the poor man's worth away,
Root out security, and plant dismay.
Law of the lawless! hast thou conquer'd Heav'n?
Then shall the worm that dies not be forgiv'n.
But yonder stalks the greatest man alive!
One farmer prospers now, where prosper'd five!
Ah! where are they?—wives, husbands, children,
Two died in jail, and one is dying there;
One broken-hearted, fills a rural grave;
And one still lives, a pauper and a slave.
Where are their children?—Some, beyond the main,
Convicts for crime; some, here, in hopeless pain,
Poor wanderers, blue with want; and some are dead;
And some, in towns, earn deathily their bread.
All rogues, they died, or fail'd—twas no great
Why ask who fails, if Jolter gets a farm?
Full well thrives he—the man is not a fool,
Albeit a tyrant, and his landlord's tool.
He courses; he affords, and can afford,
To keep his blood, and fox-hunt with my lord.
He dwells where dwelt the knight, for greyhounds
Who also with his Satrap cours'd and gam'd;
The last of all the little landed Thanes,
Whose acres bound his lordship's wide domains.
Oh, happy, if they knew their bliss, are they
Who, poor themselves, unbounded wealth survey;
Who nor in ships, nor cabs, nor chariots go,
To view the miracles of art below;
But, near their homes, behold august abodes,
That like the temples seem of all the gods!
Nor err they, if they sometimes kneel in pray'r
At shrines like those, for God-like powers are
Powers, that on railroads base no treasures waste,
Nor build huge mills, that blush like brick at taste,
Where labour fifteen hours, for twice a groat,
The half-angelic heirs of speech and thought;
But pour profusion from a golden hand,
To deck with Grecian forms a Gothic land.
Hence, yeoman, hence!—thy grandsire's land
Yield, peasant, to my Lord and power divine!
Thy grange is gone, your cluster'd hovels fall;
Proud domes expand, the park extends its wall;
Then kennels rise, the massive Tuscan grows,
And dogs sublime, like couchant kings, repose!
Lo! "still all Greek and glorious" Art is here!
Behold the pagod of a British Peer!
Admire, ye proud, and clap your hands, ye poor!
The father of this kingling was a boor!
Not Ispahan, nor Stamboul—though their thrones
Make Satraps out of dead-men's blood and bones,
And play at death, as God-like power will play—
Can match free Britain's ancients of to-day.
But me nor palaces nor Satraps please;
I love to look on happy cottages;
The gems I seek are seen in Virtue's eye;
These gauds disgust me, and I pass them by.
Show me a home like that I knew of old,
Ere heads grew hot with pride, and bosoms cold;
Some frank good deeds, which simple truth may
Some moral grace, on which the heart may gaze,
Some little hopes, that give to toil its zest,
The equal rights, that make the labourer blest,
The smile in which Eternal Love we scan,
And thank his Maker while we look on man.
I dream'd last night of forests and the sea!
My long-lost Hannah! lives she still for me?
Is she a matron, lov'd by him she loves?
A mother, whom paternal Heav'n approves?
Perchance a widow? Nay, I would not wed
The widow of my rival's happier bed.
Nor come I to oppress her with my gaze,
Or bring disgrace upon her latter days.
Forgotten now, perchance, though once too dear,
I yet will sojourn near her—oh, not here!
For thou, sweet Village! proud in thy decline,
Art too, too splendid for a heart like mine!
In England, then, can no green spot be found
Where men remain whose sympathies are sound?—
There would I dwell, and wandering thence, draw
Her envied home—but not to meet her eye:—
Perchance to see her shadow, or again
Hear her soft voice, with sadly-pleasing pain.
I dream'd I saw her, heard her—but she fled!
In vain I seek her—is she with the dead?
No meek blue eye, like hers, hath turn'd to me,
And deign'd to know the pilgrim of the sea.
I have not nam'd her—no—I dare not name!
When I would speak, why burns my cheek with
I join'd the schoolboys, where the road is wide,
I watch'd the women to the fountain's side,
I read their faces, as the wise read books,
And look'd for Hannah in their wondering looks:
But in no living aspect could I trace
The sweet May-morning of my Hannah's face;
No, nor its evening, fading into night:—
Oh, Sun, my soul grows weary of thy light!
I sought the churchyard where the lifeless lie,
And envied them—they rest so peacefully.
"No wretch comes here, at dead of night," I said,
"To drag the weary from his hard-earn'd bed;
No schoolboys here with mournful relics play,
And kick ' the dome of thought' o'er common clay;
No city cur snarls here o'er dead-men's bones;
No sordid fiend removes memorial stones:
The dead have here what to the dead belongs,
Though legislation makes not laws, but wrongs."
I sought a letter'd stone, on which my tears
Had fall'n like thunder-rain, in other years;
My mother's grave I sought, in my despair,
But found it not!—Our grave-stone was not there!
No, we were fallen men, mere workhouse slaves—
And how could fallen men have names or graves?
I thought of sorrow in the wilderness,
And death in solitude, and pitiless
Interment in the tiger's hideous maw;
I pray'd; and, praying, turn'd from all I saw.
My prayers were curses!—But the sexton came:
How my heart yearn'd to name my Hannah's name!
White was his hair, for full of days was he,
He walk'd o'er tombstones, like their history.
With well-feign'd carelessness I rais'd a spade,
Left near a grave, which seem'd but newly made,
And ask'd who slept below? "You knew him well,"
The old man answer'd, "Sir, his name was Bell.
He had a sister—she, alas! is gone,
Body and soul, Sir! for she married one
Unworthy of her. Many a corpse he took
From this churchyard." And then his head he shook,
And utter'd—whispering low, as if in fear
That the old stones and senseless dead would hear—
A word—a verb, a noun—too widely famed,
Which makes me blush to hear my country named.
That word he utter'd gazing on my face,
As if he loathed my thoughts, then paus'd a space.
"Sir," he resumed, "a sad death Hannah died;
Her husband—kill'd her, or his own son lied.
Vain is your voyage o'er the briny wave,
If here you seek her grave—she had no grave!
The terror-stricken murderer fled before
His crime was known, and ne'er was heard of more.
The poor boy died, Sir! uttering fearful cries
In his last dreams, and with his glaring eyes,
And troubled hands, seem'd acting, as it were,
His mother's fate. Yes, Sir, his grave is there.
But you are ill? Your looks make me afraid:—
My God! how frightfully he shakes the spade!"
Oh, welcome once again black ocean's foam!
England! can this be England?—this my home?
This country of the crime without a name,
And men who know nor mercy, hope, nor shame?
Oh, Light! that cheer'st all life, from sky to sky,
As with a hymn, to which the stars reply!
Canst thou behold this land, oh, Holy Light!
And not turn black with horror at the sight?
Fall'n country of my fathers! fall'n and foul!
Thy body still is here, but where the soul?
I look upon a corpse—'tis putrid clay—
And fiends possess it. Vampires, quit your prey!
Or vainly tremble, when the dead arise,
Clarion'd to vengeance by shriek-shaken skies,
And cranch your hearts, and drink your blood for ale!
Then eat each other—till the banquet fail!
Oh, thou dark tower, that look'st o'er ancient woods
To see the tree of fire put forth its buds!
Baronial keep, whose ruins, ivy-grown,
The time-touch'd ash mistakes for living stone,
Grasping them with his writhen roots, and fast
Binding the present with the faded past!
While, cropp'd with every crime, the tax-plough'd
And foot-paths, stolen from the trampled poor,
And commons, sown with curses loud and deep,
Proclaim a harvest, which the rich shall reap,
Call up the iron men of Runnymead,
And bid them look on lords, whom peasants feed!
Then—when the worm slinks down at nature's
And with the shrieking heav'ns thy dungeons moan
O'er the loud fall of greatness, misery fed,
Let their fierce laugh awake their vassals dead,—
The shaft-fam'd men, whom yet tradition sings,
Who serv'd, but did not feed, the fear'd of kings,
To join the wondering laugh, and wilder yell,
While England flames, ' a garden' and a hell.
Again upon the deep I toss and swing!
The bounding billow lifts me, like the wing
Of the struck eagle—and away I dart,
Bearing afar the arrow in my heart.
For thou art with me, though I see no more
Thee, stream-lov'd England! Thy impatient shore
Hath sunk beneath me—miles, a thousand miles;
Yet, in my heart, thy verdant Eden smiles.
Land where my Hannah died, and hath no tomb!
Still, in my soul, thy dewy roses bloom.
Ev'n in Niagara's roar, remembrance still
Shall hear thy throstle, n'er the lucid rill,
At lucid eve; thy bee, at stillest noon;
And, when clouds chase the heart-awaking moon,
The mocking-bird, where Erie's waters swell,
Shall sing of fountain'd vales and philomel;
To my sick soul bring over worlds of waves,
Dew-glistening Albion's woods, and dripping caves;
But—with her linnet, redbreast, lark, and wren—
Her blasted homes and much-enduring men!
All who revere the Memory of
OUR SECOND LOCKE, JEREMY BENTHAM,
The greatest happiness of the greatest number,
For the greatest length of time,
I inscribe these
CORN LAW RHYMES.
Two generous critics (one of them writing in the New Monthly Magazine, and the other
in the Athenæum,) have praised so highly this little, unpuffed, unadvertised book,
that I am almost compelled to doubt whether I still live in England. What! in the land of
castes and cant, take a poor self-educated man by the hand, and declare to the world that his
book is worth reading! To the select writers and readers of the "Squire's Review," such
conduct must be utterly incomprehensible, and ought to make Gifford, in his coffin, shake the
worms from the brow of a dead slave. One of my warm-hearted critics, he of the
Athenæum, in his kindness and zeal for my welfare, (which cannot but be sincere, and
for which I will never cease to be grateful,) advises me to rhyme no more politics. Poetry,
he thinks, is thrown away on such subjects. I think differently, and I will tell him why. But I must first inform him, that I have long ago published poems which contained no political
allusions, (two of them are reprinted at the end of this volume,) and that the worst of them
all might justly claim a hundred times the merit of the Corn Law Rhymes. Yet no man cried,
"God bless them!" Of the Reviews, the Eclectic, and Blackwood, alone condescended to
criticise any of them. The Westminster, indeed, noticed the Village Patriarch, with high praise; but the Village Patriarch is a political poem! Must I, then, conclude, that I owe the
notice which has been taken of the Corn Law Rhymes, to the supposition that they are the work
of a mechanic? But why should we wonder, if mechanics write well in these days? A journeyman
printer, one Benjamin Franklin, wrote good prose before I was born; capital verses were
written by a tow-hackler, called Burns, who has been half a century in his grave; and did
not a wool-comber, Shakspeare by name, hundreds of years ago, write better than any body else, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, before or since? There are many mechanics in Sheffield, who can write better than the author of the Corn Law Rhymes.
I will now tell my friend of the Athenaeum why I think there is nothing unnatural or improper in the union of poetry and politics. Because I think, that any subject whatever in which man takes interest, how ever humble and common-place it may be, is capable of inspiring high and true poetry. The power which produced Tam o' Shanter, is the same power which enabled Gray to write his Elegy. Both are alike masterpieces, though the subjects are utterly unlike each other. But, perhaps, I cannot express myself better on this subject than by quoting a few sentences from two letters, written by me more than two years ago, to two of our greatest critics.
"I send you with this letter, a copy of the Village Patriarch, a poem; and, I think, I hear you exclaim, after turning over a page or two, 'What have we here? A poem on political economy!' Why not, Sir? The utilitarians say, that poets are generally servile fools, and that poetry, when it is not nonsense, is almost sure to be something worse; while the more elegant critics complain that the union of poetry with politics, is always hurtful to the politics and fatal to the poetry. But the utilitarians can hardly be right, and the gentlemen critics must be wrong, if Homer, Dante, Milton, Cowper, and Burns were poets. Why should the sensitive bard take less interest than other men, in those things which most nearly concern mankind? The contrary ought to be, and is, true. All genuine poets are fervid politicians. Perhaps we owe the inimitable Rape of the Lock to the physical weakness of the author, and his consequent determination to excel in sofa-and-lap-dog poetry; yet was not he, was not Pope himself a politician? Aye, and a great one. What
is poetry but impassioned
truth—philosophy in its essence—the spirit of that bright consummate flower, whose root is in our
bosoms? Are there no politics in Hamlet? Is not
Macbeth—is not the drama of Wallenstien a sublime political treatise? Napoleon was a great poet, when, pointing to the pyramids, he said to his army, 'Forty centuries look down upon us!' Perhaps the finest poem in the world, is the declaration of Newton relative to his discoveries, 'That he was only like a child, gathering pebbles on the shore, while the
great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before him.' The sagacious Bacon and the pious Taylor were both poets of a high order; and I will engage to quote as fine illustrative poetry as ever was written, from the prose of Jeremy Bentham. I blush for the age, through my very bones, while these truisms are wrung from me. An apology to a
King for the union of poetry and politics, is, at best, like begging pardon of his Queen for the fragrance of a lily; or rather, it is like asking a lady of her train to tolerate the
useful beauty of the corny reed, embattled in its field.' All true and lasting poetry is rooted in the business of life; that of Burns, for instance, would have lost half its value, and have been forgotten, or, perhaps never heard of, had it not reflected the colours of the wonderful age that was passing over him. How else happens it, that the proudest peer finds himself unable to despise Willie's vulgar 'peck o' malt?'—that the vilest boroughmonger is compelled to join in the poet's hearty welcome of 'Dumourier to his despots?' and
that—in a country where poverty and truth alone are criminal—the lips of fine gentlemen are familiar with the name of a guager? Where will our children look for the living character of the year 1793? Will Burke, the turncoat, inform them 'that titles are but the
guinea's stamp?' Or will they learn from the writings of Burns, and
from his life, that, during a certain crusade for ignominy, it was necessary, yet perilous, and in his case, fatal, to say, 'the man's the goud for a' that?' My poem may be a weed, but it, has sprung, unforced, out of existing things. It may not suit the circulating libraries for adult babies; but it is the earnest product of experience, a retrospect of the past, and an evidence of the present, a sign of the times, a symptom, terrible, or otherwise, which our state doctors will do well to observe with the profoundest shake of the head; for it affords a prognostic, if not a proof, that Smith and Macculloch must soon be as familiar as Dilworth to school boys. And is it of no importance what a man of the middle
class—hardly raised above the lowest, thinks—when the lowest are beginning to think? To Sir Thomas Bread-tax Pauper, Lady Betty Pension, and all the great and small vulgar, my opinions may be the
ne plus ulira of impropriety; but, believing as I do, that the Corn Laws have a direct and rapid tendency to ruin my ten children and their country, with all its venerable and venerated institutions, where is the wonder if I hate the perpetrators of such insane atrocities? Their ancestors, I believe, were good men. The Savilles and the Rockinghams, were not palaced almoners, nor are their successors like the Shelleys and the Lauderdales. But when suicidal anti-profit laws speak to my heart from my children's
trenchers—when statuets for restricting the industry of a population, which is only superabundant because it is oppressed, threaten to send me to the treadmill, for the crime of inflicted
want—when, in a word, my feelings are hammered till they are '
cold-short'—habit can no longer bend them to courtesy; they snap—and fly off in a sarcasm. Is it strange that my language is fervent as a welding heat, when my thoughts are
passions, that rush burning from my mind, like white-hot bolts of steel? You do not seem to be sufficiently aware of the importance of these low
matters of trade; you do not seem to suspect, that, if the Corn Laws continue much longer, the
death struggle of competition will terminate suddenly! But your friend, Lord Milton, knows that these trifles are serious things. They are not beneath his notice. In all places, at all times, on every occasion he has done his duty, and by a super-human effort, raised himself above the prejudices of his caste. To him we owe the preservation (not uninjured) of our ancient staple, the woollen manufacture. But for his pithy, unanswerable speeches, we should still have had a
wool-tax,—but no buyers of British woollen! I do not wish that there were less of Chatham, or of Brougham in your speeches; but an infusion of Smith and Maculloch is wanting, to make them what the speeches of a philosophic statesman in the nineteenth century ought to be."
I cannot conclude without a few remarks on the present state of the trade of Sheffield, as connected with the tendency of the Corn Laws. The Germans being able to buy the necessaries of life without restriction, are becoming dangerous competitors to us; but, in consequence of the troubles on the continent, our merchants have lately received many orders which, in other circumstances, would have been executed abroad; and the great and
sudden demand for our goods has caused a general strike for increased wages. The present glut, of orders, then, is an accident; but gluts and scarcities, generally, are the results of absurd legislation and I might assert, without fear of refutation, that if trade were universally free, neither gluts nor scarcities could, to any great extent, or for any great length of time, exist.
This, then, is the favourable moment for the repeal of the Corn Laws. If we wait until the continent is pacified, and our rivals enter again into active competition with us, the advance which has here taken place in wages will be another premium in their favour. But who does not see, that until the Corn Laws are repealed,
the great question of wages can never be settled in England?—that gluts must alternate with scarcities?—gluts of orders with gluts of goods!—that the feast of to-day must be followed by the famine of to-morrow?—insolence by humiliation, humiliation by insolence?—and that, with the intemperance and want of fore-thought resulting from the absence of a steady demand for goods, the conflicts and heart-burnings of the employers and the employed must continue? But how long will such a state of things yet last? Can we compete for ever with un-bread-taxed rivals? No! capital will go where it will pay; skill will follow capital; and our manufactories will at length stop, simultaneously, and for ever! The immense camp of London will then be
without pay; the immense camp of Glasgow will be without
pay; the immense camp of the West-Riding of York shire will be without
pay, and almost within shout of a still more multitudinous
camp—that of Lancashire, also without pay! And all this may happen, and, if the Corn Laws remain much longer on the statute book, will happen, perhaps, in one and the same week, day, or hour! If I am called upon to produce from history a record of similar catastrophes, I shall answer, that history can furnish no record of a
of things. The British government is the only one that ever legislated against the bread of its people, by impeding the exchange of manufactured goods for food, at the very moment when such exchange ought to have been facilitated by all possible or conceivable means.
SHEFFIELD MECHANIC'S ANTI-BREAD-TAX
CONVINCED that the Mechanics are the only body of men in this country sufficiently independent to oppose, with any chance of success, the host of corruptionists who are feeding on our labour, and, at the same time, limiting the market for our productions; trusting also that we shall speedily be joined by every wise and good mechanic in the empire, and supported by the yet undebased portion of the middle class of our countrymen, if any such there be:—We, the Sheffield Mechanics' Anti-Bread Tax Society, declare That, in a fully-peopled country, it is an act of national suicide to restrict the exchange of manufactured goods for corn; because, where there is a law which restricts the necessaries and comforts of life, profits and wages, being, no where worth more than the necessaries and comforts which they will purchase, are demonstrably measured by the restriction:—That the present Corn Law, while it enables a few thousand landed annuitants to convert the general loss into a temporary, but ultimately fatal gain to themselves, is destructive of every thing which is valuable to us as men; and that, while that law, and the will and power to alter it for the worse, continue as they are, no reduction of taxation, how extensive soever, can be other than a mere transfer of a certain amount of the public money from the government to the landlords. We therefore further declare, That as we cannot escape from the consequences of the Corn Law, (except by causing it to be repealed, or by emigrating with our heart-broken wives and children,) we will, by all the legal means in our power, oppose the horrible anti-profit law,
alias Corn Law, and never remit in our exertions, until the monopoly of the first necessary of life be utterly destroyed. The case of our oppressors, as stated by themselves, furnishes answerable reasons why we ought no longer to maintain them in their present character of palaced paupers. They say they cannot live without alms. If the assertion be true, why do they not go to the workhouse for their pay as other paupers do?
If it be not true, why are they not sent to the tread-mill for obtaining
money under false pretences?
These questions suggest two others. We, however, insist not yet on compensation for the past.
JOHN CARR, Secretary.
Note. When the Sheffield Mechanics' Anti-Bread-Tax Society was first instituted, the Members, in common with most of their countrymen, had almost ceased to hope for a Reform in Parliament. Determined to invite the legal co-operation of all the oppressed throughout the kingdom, they formed themselves into an association, with the design of attacking a particular point in the enemy's line. By overthrowing the Corn Laws, they knew they would compel their enemies themselves to become reformers. The announcement of the Reform Bill in the infancy of their union, induced them to suspend their operations. Had not that announcement been made, the Society would at this time, I doubt not, have influenced as members, and co-operators, at least five hundred thousand adult males! They who doubt this startling assertion, will make what allowance they please for the exaggeration of a poetical imagination; but I beg of them to remember, that the Birmingham Political Union originally consisted of four members only.
Should the Reform Bill disappoint our just expectations, the Sheffield Mechanics' Anti-Bread-Tax Society is still in existence. It may yet be necessary to array a Political union of all the plundered against all the thieves; and I must, in candour say, that it will not be the fault of the latter, if the very next contest which history will have to record, will not be that of the People of Great Britain, v. Fifty Thousand Palaced Paupers. In fact, that contest is already begun. What is the struggle which now agitates the empire, but the beginning of the
end—the great question of profit and wages, alias Bread, Bread, Bread—and whether the Tories, by continuing to tax it, shall destroy the nation, with themselves? One would think, the answer cannot much longer be doubtful.
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CORN LAW RHYMES.
TUNE—"The Land o' the Leal."
Where the poor cease to pay,
Go, lov'd one, and rest!
Thou art wearing away
To the land of the blest.
Our father is gone
Where the wrong'd are forgiven,
And that dearest one,
Thy husband, in heaven.
No toil in despair,
No tyrant, no slave,
No bread-tax is there,
With a maw like the grave.
But the poacher, thy pride,
Whelm'd in ocean afar;
And his brother, who died
Land-butcher'd in war;
And their mother, who sank
Broken-hearted to rest;
And the baby, that drank
'Till it froze on her breast;
With tears, and with smiles,
Are waiting for thee,
In the beautiful isles
Where the wrong'd are the free.
Go, loved one, and rest
Where the poor cease to pay!
To the land of the blest
Thou art wearing away.
But the son of thy pain
Will yet stay with me,
And poor little Jane
Look sadly like thee.
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Child, is thy father dead?
Father is gone!
Why did they tax his bread?
God's will be done!
Mother has sold her bed;
Better to die than wed!
Where shall she lay her head?
Home we have none!
Father clamm'd thrice a week—
God's will be done!
Long for work did he seek,
Work he found none.
Tears on his hollow cheek
Told what no tongue could speak:
Why did his master break?
God's will be done!
Doctor said air was best,
Food we had none;
Father, with panting breast,
Groan'd to be gone:
Now he is with the blest—
Mother says death is best!
We have no place of rest—
Yes, ye have one!
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THE FOUR DEARS.
DEAR Sugar, dear Tea, and dear Corn
Conspired with dear Representation,
To laugh worth and honour to scorn,
And beggar the whole British nation.
Let us bribe the dear sharks, said dear Tea;
Bribe, bribe, said dear Representation;
Then buy with their own the dear humbugg'd
The bulwarks of Tory dictation.
Dear Sugar and Tea, said dear Corn,
Be true to dear Representation;
And then the dear crown will be worn,
But to dignify dearest taxation.
Dear Sugar, dear Corn, and dear Tea,
Stick to me, said dear Representation;
Let us still pull together, and we
Shall still rob the dear British nation.
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THE TAXED CAKE.
GIVE, give, they cry—and take!
For wilful men are they
Who tax'd our cake, and took our cake,
To throw our cake away.
The cake grows less and less,
For profits lessen, too;
But land will pay, at last, I guess,
For land-won Waterloo.
They mix our bread with bran,
They call potatoes bread;
And, get who may, or keep who can,
The starved, they say, are fed.
Our rivals fatten fast,
But we are free to pay;
And dearly they shall pay, at last,
Who threw our cake away.
Lend, lend thy wing, oh, steam,
And bear me to some clime
Where splendid beggars dare not dream
That law's best fruit is crime!
Oh, Landlord's Devil, take
Thy own elect, I pray,
Who tax'd our cake, and took our cake,
To throw our cake away.
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WHAT IS BAD GOVERNMENT?
WHAT is bad government, thou slave,
Whom robbers represent?
What is bad government, thou knave,
Who lov'st bad government?
It is the deadly Will, that takes
What labour ought to keep;
It is the deadly Power, that makes
Bread dear, and labour cheap.
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THE DEATH FEAST.
THE birth-day, or the wedding-day,
Let happier mourners keep:
To Death my vestal vows I pay,
And try in vain to weep.
Some griefs the strongest soul might shake,
And I such griefs have had;
My brain is hot—but they mistake
Who deem that I am mad.
My father died—my mother died—
Four orphans poor were we;
My brother John work'd hard, and tried
To smile on Jane and me.
But work grew scarce, while bread grew dear,
And wages lessen'd too;
For Irish hordes were bidders here,
Our half-paid work to do.
Yet still he strove with failing breath
And sinking cheek, to save
Consumptive Jane from early death—
Then join'd her in the grave.
His watery hand in mine I took,
And kiss'd him till he slept;
O, still I see his dying look!
He tried to smile, and wept!
I bought his coffin with my bed,
My gown bought earth and prayer;
I pawn'd my mother's ring for bread—
I pawn'd my father's chair.
My Bible yet remains to sell,
And yet unsold shall be;
But language fails my woes to tell—
Even crumbs were scarce with me.
I sold poor Jane's grey linnet then—
It cost a groat a-year;
I sold John's hen, and miss'd the hen,
When eggs were selling dear:
For autumn nights seem'd wintry cold,
While seldom blazed my fire,
And eight times eight no more I sold
When eggs were getting higher.
But still I glean the moor and heath;
I wash, they say, with skill;
And workhouse bread ne'er cross'd my teeth,—
I trust it never will.
But when the day on which John died
Returns with all its gloom,
I seek kind friends, and beg, with pride,
A banquet for the tomb.
One friend, my brother James, at least,
Comes then with me to dine;
Let others keep the marriage-feast,
The funeral feast is mine.
For then on him I fondly call,
And then they live again!
Tomorrow is our festival
Of death, and John, and Jane.
Even now, behold! they look on me,
Exulting from the skies,
While angels round them weep to see
The tears gush from their eyes!
I cannot weep—why can I not?
My tears refuse to flow:
My feet are cold, my brain is hot—
Is fever madness?—No.
Thou smilest, and in scorn—but thou,
Couldst thou forget the dead?
No common beggar courtsies now,
And begs for burial bread.