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HOOD, Thomas


The Bridge of Sighs

One more Unfortunate,

Weary of breath,

Rashly importunate,

Gone to her death!

Take her up tenderly,

Lift her with care;

Fashion'd so slenderly

Young, and so fair!

Look at her garments

Clinging like cerements;

Whilst the wave constantly

Drips from her clothing;

ake her up instantly,

Loving, not loathing.

Touch her not scornfully;

Think of her mournfully,

Gently and humanly;

Not of the stains of her,

All that remains of her

Now is pure womanly.

Make no deep scrutiny

Into her mutiny

Rash and undutiful:

Past all dishonour,

Death has left on her

Only the beautiful.

Still, for all slips of hers,

One of Eve's family—

Wipe those poor lips of hers

Oozing so clammily.

Loop up her tresses

Escaped from the comb,

Her fair auburn tresses;

Whilst wonderment guesses

Where was her home?

Who was her father?

Who was her mother?

Had she a sister?

Had she a brother?

Or was there a dearer one

Still, and a nearer one

Yet, than all other?

Alas! for the rarity

Of Christian charity

Under the sun!

O, it was pitiful!

Near a whole city full,

Home she had none.

Sisterly, brotherly,

Fatherly, motherly

Feelings had changed:

Love, by harsh evidence,

Thrown from its eminence;

Even God's providence

Seeming estranged.

Where the lamps quiver

So far in the river,

With many a light

From window and casement,

From garret to basement,

She stood, with amazement,

Houseless by night.

The bleak wind of March

Made her tremble and shiver;

But not the dark arch,

Or the black flowing river:

Mad from life's history,

Glad to death's mystery,

Swift to be hurl'd—

Anywhere, anywhere

Out of the world!

In she plunged boldly—

No matter how coldly

The rough river ran—

Over the brink of it,

Picture it—think of it,

Dissolute Man!

Lave in it, drink of it,

Then, if you can!

Take her up tenderly,

Lift her with care;

Fashion'd so slenderly,

Young, and so fair!

Ere her limbs frigidly

Stiffen too rigidly,

Decently, kindly,

Smooth and compose them;

And her eyes, close them,

Staring so blindly!

Dreadfully staring

Thro' muddy impurity,

As when with the daring

Last look of despairing

Fix'd on futurity.

Perishing gloomily,

Spurr'd by contumely,

Cold inhumanity,

Burning insanity,

Into her rest.—

Cross her hands humbly

As if praying dumbly,

Over her breast!

Owning her weakness,

Her evil behaviour,

And leaving, with meekness,

Her sins to her Saviour!


The Song of the Shirt

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 Oh! 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!

"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 well as a Shirt.

"But why do I talk of Death?

That Phantom of grisly bone,

I hardly fear its 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 shattered roof — 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 benumbed,

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 bless  d 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 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, —

Would that its tone could reach the Rich! —

She sang this "Song of the Shirt!"