The Village Poor-House (Extract)

Within yon paper-window'd room,
A group in sadness and in gloom
Is sitting—and, though no-one speaks,
Look only in their eyes and cheeks!
It needs not language to express
Their tale of misery and distress;
The Village Poor-house—paupers, they—
Men—young, sinewy, and strong,
Condemn'd to see, day after day,
Their moments creep along
In sloth—for they have nought to do,
And—start ye not—in hunger, too!
Yes! hunger, gnawing like a worm,
Yet armed with more than reptile fangs,
Wearing away the manly form,
While scarce tobacco soothes its pangs.
And women—young,—they might be fair,
Save that the blackness of despair
Is shed o'er every feature there,—
And gives to lips that might have smil'd
A curl of desperation wild,
To eyes that might have beamd,—a look
Which virtue cannot bear nor brook!
Such are they in that chamber dim,
Silent, and desolate, and grim.

'A Country Curate'

Published in 1832, two years before the great Poor Law Amendment Act, The Village Poor-House is a slim collection of verse about life in, according to its pseudonymous author, a fictional vilage.

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