The Smokeless Chimney

By E.J.B

STRANGER! who to buy art willing,
Seek not here for talent rare;
Mine’s no song of love, or beauty,
But a tale of want and care.
Traveller on the Northern Railway!
Look and learn, as on you speed;
See the hundred smokeless chimneys,
Learn their tale of cheerless need.
Ah! perchance the landscape fairer
Charms your taste, your artist-eye;
Little do you guess how dearly
Costs that now unclouded sky.
“How much prettier is this county?”
Says the careless passer-by;
“Clouds of smoke we see no longer,
“What’s the reason? – tell me why.
“Better far it were, most surely,
“Never more such clouds to see,
“Bringing taint o’er nature’s beauty,
“With their foul obscurity.”
Thoughtless fair one! from yon chimney
Floats the golden breath of life;
Stop that current at your pleasure!
Stop! and starve the child – the wife.
“Ah! to them each smokeless chimney
Is a signal of despair;
They see hunger, sickness, ruin,
Written in that pure, bright air.
“Mother! mother! see ‘twas truly
“Said last week the mill would stop;
“Mark yon chimney, nought is going,
“There’s no smoke from ‘out o’ the top!’
“Father! father! what’s the reason
“That the chimneys smokeless stand?
“Is it true that all through strangers,
“We must starve in our own land?”
Low upon her chair that mother
Droops, and sighs with tearful eye;
At the hearthstone lags the father,
Musing o’er the days gone by.
Days which saw him glad and hearty,
Punctual at his work of love;
When the week’s end brought him plenty,
And he thanked the Lord above.
When his wages, earned so justly,
Gave him clothing, home, and food;
When his wife, with fond caresses,
Blessed his heart, so kind and good.
Neat and clean each Sunday saw them,
In their place of prayer and praise,
Little dreaming that the morrow
Piteous cries for help would raise.
Weeks roll on, and still yon chimney
Gives of better times no sign;
Men by thousands cry for labor,
Daily cry, and daily pine.
Now the things, so long and dearly
Prized before, and pledged away;
Clock and Bible, marriage presents,
Both must go, so sad to say!
Charley trots to school no longer,
Nelly grows more pale each day;
Nay, the baby’s shoes, so tiny,
Must be sold, for bread to pay.
They who loathe to be dependent
Now for alms are forced to ask;
Hard is mill-work, but believe me,
Begging is the bitterest task.
Soon will come the doom most dreaded,
With a horror that appals;
Lo! before their downcast faces
Grimly stare the workhouse walls.
Stranger, if these sorrows touch you,
Widely bid your bounty flow;
And assist my poor endeavors
To relieve this load of woe.
Let no more the smokeless chimneys
Draw from you one word of praise;
Think, oh, think upon the thousands
Who are moaning out their days.
Rather pray that peace, soon bringing
Work and plenty in her train,
We may see these smokeless chimneys
Blackening all the land again.

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