Martin Farquhar Tupper

(July 17, 1810 - November 1889 / London)

A Dozen Ballads About White Slavery. X. Slop-Jobbing - Poem by Martin Farquhar Tupper

Surely, to labour for what is not bread,-
To earn for an egg a stone instead,-
Cheap work, with victuals so dear;
Tho' skill'd with the hand, and shrewd with the head,
To be drudging on still, half clothed, half fed
- Hard lines for the poor man here!

The journeyman sits in his garret dim
Till his legs are numb'd and his eyeballs swim,
At piecework night and day;
His sharp Jewish master makes money of him,
Sweating his muscles, limb by limb,
And coining his life away!

The lower he drops in the social scale,
Tho' jobs never cease, nor diligence fail,
Worse paid is work ever found;
That varnish'd chair in the furniture sale
Yields only some pence to this journeyman pale,
-To his master the rest of the Pound!

Those huge jack-boots of the cavalry-swell,
These coats that Isaac and Jacob sell
So cheap to the full-dress gent,-
Their gains to the firm what sum can tell?
For the hands that have done their work so well
Earn barely a two per cent.!

Then illness comes; and the crushing load
Of debts increasingly hopelessly owed,
And all sold up at the last;
And Honesty, urged by Necessity's goad,
As a Union-pauper at work on the road
Break stones - but not his fast.

On water-gruel he lives, and dies,-
For death makes free his soul for the skies;
And as for its carcass asleep,-
Into his muscles the surgeon pries;
For Science claims such cheap supplies,
Society's pay for his keep!

O pity and shame for such a man's woes!
Yet thousands of garrets and cellars disclose
Like tale of suffering long;
Industry, Honesty,- every one knows
What ought to be gain'd by such virtues as those
If Right were the rule and not Wrong.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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