Martin Farquhar Tupper

(July 17, 1810 - November 1889 / London)

A Dozen Ballads About White Slavery. Ii. The Factory Slave - Poem by Martin Farquhar Tupper

Pale, and shabby, and looking so ill,
Hungry and cold and wet,
On a winter's morning going to mill
The factory-child I met:

All the day long among perilous wheels,
His duty it was to tend
Spindles and jennies and shuttles and reels,
A toil without an end,
For iron never grows weary, nor feels,
Nor ever made child its friend!

One among hundreds was that boy
Who never had known of a home nor a toy,
But work'd without hope, and lived without joy!
Stunted, sorrowful, looking so old,
Blear-eyed, weary and wan,
Though thrice ten years had barely been told,
I came to the factory man:

All life long in a poisonous air,
Blighting to body and mind,
Where health soon turns to be stagnant there,
And piety deaf and blind,
His lot was a loom and a ricketty chair,
And cotton to weave and wind!

One among thousands all alike
His only excitements were Drink and the Strike,
To think of the torch and to dream of the pike!

Faded, slatternly, looking so weak,
Tho' once a Scotch lassie so braw,
- With sin in her eye, and disease on her cheek,
The factory-girl I saw:

That close dim room was her home for years
With all things vile to endure,
Irksome labour, and quarrels, and jeers,
And words and deeds impure,
And so till Death,- amid sorrows and fears,
And all without a cure!

One of a multitude was that girl
Slaving amid the machinery's whirl,
Bold, and beggar'd of modesty's pearl!

O but how base and shameful a thing
Is this, ye getters of wealth,-
That your prosperities Ruin should bring
On happiness, virtue, and health!

Consider the Mind, remember the Soul,
Of these poor Bodies take care;
If Providence over them gives you control,
As stewards to be judged, beware!
And you, good men,- ay, good on the whole,
No Strikes! - lt all be fair.

Thus, on a just anti-slavery plan
Let each do well, as well as he can,
And all will go better with Master and Man!

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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