Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Cry of the Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
      Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers —
      And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows;
   The young birds are chirping in the nest;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows;
   The young flowers are blowing toward the west—
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      They are weeping bitterly!
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
      In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
      Why their tears are falling so?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
      Which is lost in Long Ago—
The old tree is leafless in the forest—
   The old year is ending in the frost—
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest—
   The old hope is hardest to be lost:
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
      Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
      In our happy Fatherland ?

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
      And their looks are sad to see,
For the man's grief abhorrent, draws and presses
      Down the cheeks of infancy—
"Your old earth," they say, "is very dreary;"
   "Our young feet," they say, "are very weak!"
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary—
   Our grave-rest is very far to seek!
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children,
      For the outside earth is cold —
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,
      And the graves are for the old!"

"True," say the children, "it may happen
      That we die before our time!
Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen
      Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her —
   Was no room for any work in the close clay:
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her,
   Crying, 'Get up, little Alice ! it is day.'
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,
   With your ear down, little Alice never cries;
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
   For the smile has time for growing in her eyes,—
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in
      The shroud, by the kirk-chime!
It is good when it happens," say the children,
      "That we die before our time!"

Alas, the wretched children! they are seeking
      Death in life, as best to have!
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
      With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city —
   Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do —
Pluck you handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty
   Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through!
But they answer," Are your cowslips of the meadows
      Like our weeds anear the mine?
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,
      From your pleasures fair and fine!

"For oh," say the children, "we are weary,
      And we cannot run or leap —
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
      To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping—
   We fall upon our faces, trying to go ;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
   The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
      Through the coal-dark, underground —
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
      In the factories, round and round.

"For all day, the wheels are droning, turning, 
      Their wind comes in our faces, 
Till our hearts turn, — our heads, with pulses burning,
      And the walls turn in their places
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling—
   Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall, 
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling —
   All are turning, all the day, and we with all!
And all day, the iron wheels are droning;
      And sometimes we could pray,
'O ye wheels,' (breaking out in a mad moaning)
      'Stop ! be silent for to-day ! ' "

Ay ! be silent ! Let them hear each other breathing
      For a moment, mouth to mouth —
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing
      Of their tender human youth !
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
   Is not all the life God fashions or reveals —
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
   That they live in you, or under you, O wheels ! —
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,
      As if Fate in each were stark ;
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,
      Spin on blindly in the dark.

Now tell the poor young children, O my brothers,
      To look up to Him and pray —
So the blessed One, who blesseth all the others,
      Will bless them another day.
They answer, " Who is God that He should hear us,
   While the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred ?
When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us
   Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word !
And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)
      Strangers speaking at the door :
Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him,
      Hears our weeping any more ?

" Two words, indeed, of praying we remember ;
      And at midnight's hour of harm, —
'Our Father,' looking upward in the chamber,
      We say softly for a charm.
We know no other words, except 'Our Father,'
   And we think that, in some pause of angels' song,
God may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,
   And hold both within His right hand which is strong.
'Our Father !' If He heard us, He would surely
      (For they call Him good and mild)
Answer, smiling down the steep world very purely,
      'Come and rest with me, my child.'

"But, no !" say the children, weeping faster,
      " He is speechless as a stone ;
And they tell us, of His image is the master
      Who commands us to work on.
Go to ! " say the children,—" up in Heaven,
   Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find!
Do not mock us ; grief has made us unbelieving —
   We look up for God, but tears have made us blind."
Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving,
      O my brothers, what ye preach?
For God's possible is taught by His world's loving —
      And the children doubt of each.

And well may the children weep before you;
      They are weary ere they run;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
      Which is brighter than the sun:
They know the grief of man, without its wisdom;
   They sink in the despair, without its calm —
Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom, 
   Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm, —
Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly
      No dear remembrance keep,
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly:
      Let them weep! let them weep!

They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,
      And their look is dread to see,
For they think you see their angels in their places,
      With eyes meant for Deity;
"How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation,
   Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart, 
Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
   And tread onward to your throne amid the mart?
Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants,
      And your purple shews your path;
But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence
      Than the strong man in his wrath!"
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
A little mover and shaker, this piece.  Published in 1842 in Blackwoods, it is believed to have helped bring about child labour reforms by raising support for Lord Shaftesbury’s Ten Hours Bill (1844). Of course such a bill did not pass intact first time around, but change was in the air. It was also helped on by some pretty remarkable people who stood up for what was right,  including Richard Ostler: "If blood must flow, let it be the blood of lawbreakers, tyrants, and murderers ... infanticide shall cease." & Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who took on factories, asylums, chimney sweeps, and more: "So, by God's blessing, my first effort has been for the advance of human happiness. May I improve hourly!"
 I have some new heroes, to find more, or maybe for something a little more upbeat, why not surf the Tuesday Poem, here at Tuesday Poem world.
...may I improve hourly
A.J. ;)  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Poem: A Wolf Ate My Homework

You've heard the story of the three little pigs
who did their homework-
one with straw
one with wood
and one with bricks

But I bet you never heard about their sister

A wolf ate her homework-
three parts nitroglycerin,
one part diatomaceous earth,
wrapped in paper.


This little pig danced about in the sun all day
and piped a tune
and when the teacher asked
did you do your homework?
where is your house?
little pig,
little pig,
what were you doing?
dancing a jig?

The first thing she said was,
"what's wrong with dancing?

and, yes, here's my hoemwork-

-at least what's left of it."

And the teacher held out his hand
and didn't learn anything.

A.J. Ponder

Wishing everyone a fantastic week, there's so many great poems to see on this week's Tuesday hub. Really loved  Lying is an Occupation by Laetitia Pilkington, on Bigger than Ben Hur, something horribly apt as NZ is being plunged into election fever.  Or for more fairytale poetry check out my portal to fairy tale poetry.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Poem: kinda totally lost

And I thought a wolf ate my homework would be original...
Rats, Faith McNulty got the idea first...

I have to admit this is not (exactly) a poem, the wolf ate my homework...I started a poem earlier this week called Lost, and it's ended up dragging me in about three different directions, which is about right for me. Never too sure which way to go - and all the roads look pretty good...at first. It's only later you realise you really should have chosen to walk across the field with the strawberries...

I guess that's what the garden path is all about.
I guess that's what being lost is all about
And so while there is no poem as such this week
there's this...whatever it is...

Which doesn't amount to the same thing, but at least it's going somewhere...
but here

Have a great week,
and hopefully I'll figure out where the poem Lost is going to take me. Maybe to two different places, maybe to a nice comfortable couch, a good book and a warm cup of cocoa, or maybe to the Tuesday Poem Blog.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Positive Thinking

Strung out in wires
hyped up on amps.
-I'm wired-
running backward
on premises
nobody bothered to correct, 

dangle like promises
in a soup of potential
and yet,
you should know better than to put
your finger in that socket,
-on that element-

You say I can do anything -

You say a positive charge flows in -

You say there is a drop in potential

Aren't we all as excitable as ever
until we hit the resistance
and the heat goes on.

Or is it all just insulation,
and kites.

A.J. Ponder

Hope you enjoyed this week, and have somehow managed to avoid the flu season - possibly by being in another country where it's not the tail end of winter. Here the flu season is truly upon us, biting in just as winter seems to be losing some of it's grip - and there is a promise of spring, ever a testiment to life goes on. (Except of course, when it doesn't.)

For more poems why not check out the Tuesday Poem Hub, to see what the talented poets there are up to. I particularly liked, “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?” by Ron Koertge on Gurglewords, for some of the worst advice ever, or maybe the best. It's hard to tell. ;)

Thanks for dropping by and have a great week,