Janet Hamilton

(1795-1873 / Scotland)

Intemperance And The Sunday Trains - Poem by Janet Hamilton

'Oh that my head were waters,' and mine eyes
A tearful fountain, ever running over,
A heart that bleeds, and struggles, moans, and sighs
O'er thousands slain-whose blood earth may not cover.


At corners of the streets, by night and day,
They stalk, they stagger, fall, and rise no more;
Like festering masses of insensate clay,
Lie thickly strewn on life's encumbered shore.


Most dread Intemperance, shall it not suffice,
That, throned and crowned, thou reignest as a queen
In million homes, on British soil that rise,
Where still thy direful power is felt and seen?


The drunkard's song, the oath, the jest obscene,
Familiar sounds to us-for ever nigh,
And in our midst, such scenes are often seen
As shock the soul and blast the gazer's eye.


The huge distillery, ever 'bleeding gold,'
For statesmen's hands to spend or sport away;
The marts, where souls are bought and spirits sold,
Are rising, opening, filling day by day.


Say, shall not this, ay, more than this, suffice?
The thousand horrors, daily felt and seen!
Say is it not enough, ye good and wise?
Then why should newer horrors supervene?


'Tis Sunday evening, and the twilight gray
Is fading into night-mid peace profound,
When screaming, rushing, on its iron way,
The locomotive wakes the echoes round.


They reach the goal, the cars disgorge their fare;
Stand close, observe, while they are passing near,
Vile fumes of drink and smoke infest the air,
And jest and laughter light offend the ear.


A girl is hanging on her sweetheart's arm,
Who looks into her eyes with maudlin' leer;
Ah! parents, little reck ye of the harm
Done to your children, when you drag them here.


'Oh, this is brave,' say you-'now we are free
To boat or rail-each man to please himself;
No Sabbatarian hypocrites are we,
We lay the Fourth Commandment on the shelf.'


Blest 'pearl of days,' now trodden under foot
By thousands, who would turn again to rend
The hand that gave the jewel, and uproot
The fences set God's precepts to defend.


Let potsherds strive with potsherds of the earth,
But woe to him that striveth with his Maker;
Let such, even now, join trembling with their mirth,
And in such deeds, my soul, be not partaker.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010



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