Martin Farquhar Tupper

(July 17, 1810 - November 1889 / London)

A Dozen Ballads About White Slavery. 1. The Field Serf. - Poem by Martin Farquhar Tupper

Galloping out on a drizzly day
To see the foxhounds meet
And huntsmen take their reckless way
Over the newsown wheat,
I came to an old man, stricken and grey,
In soak'd and tatter'd smock,
Hoeing the turnips out of the clay
For farmer Close's flock.

And I pull'd up straight, to talk with the man,
For it is but a prudent part
To show poor folks whenever we can
Their betters are blest with a heart:
The steward may oppress, and the farmer may grind,
And Squire gets all the scorn,
But the natural bent of a gentleman's mind
Is ever to help the forlorn.

And how the poor fellow's weatherworn cheek
Ran down with gratitude there,
To hear the voice of kindliness speak,
And touch the shilling rare;
And yet - he had given to me much more
Than I to him could have given,
For his story touch'd my heart to its core,
And I heard the praise of Heaven!

For years threescore, or five or six more,-
He didn't know right well,-
How he had toil'd, and muck'd and moil'd,
He couldn't justly tell;-
He only remember'd that, young or old,
He had ever been, so to speak,
In midsummer heat or Christmas cold,
Half starved, aweary, and weak!

As a ragged urchin scaring the birds
With lungs all sore and hoarse,
As a farm-lad tending the pigs and herds,
And feeding on food as coarse,-
As a labourer earning never enough
For bairns, and self, and wife,-
And ever with plenty of bitter and rough,
But none of the honey of life!

No books, no rest, no pleasures, no treats,
But aches, and labour, and care,
No earthly excitements, nor heavenly sweets,
But ignorance bald and bare,
In the same dull fields from cradle to grave
To spend life's dismal span,-
Why,- this is to live as a Cuban slave,
And not as an English Man!

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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