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SMITTEN stones will talk with fiery tongues,
And the worm, when trodden, will turn;
And answer with never a spurn.
Old England's Helots will bear:
Nor shame in their dearth's despair.
Our Mothers with Death's kiss are white;
And our Daughters his Slaves by night. or whether he cries enraptured
One morning, my Love, like another Eve, found me :
She smiled, and my being ran bliss to the brim :
And up went my soul to God, shouting for glee,
“I love my Love, and my Love loves me." he is still himself-his heart, his being, his individuality are in his poem. Truly does he tell us
“I keep my political verses as memorials of my past, as one inight keep some worn-out garment because he had passed through the furnace in it, nothing doubting that in the future they will often prove my passport to the hearts and homes of thousands of the poor, when the minstrel comes to their door with something better to bring them. They will know that I have suffered their sufferings, wept their tears, thought their thonghts, and felt their feelings; and they will trust
I have been congratulated by some correspondents on the uses of suffering, and the riches I have wrung from Poverty : as though it were a blessed thing to be born in the condition in which I was, and surrounded with untoward circumstances as I have been. My experience tells me that Poverty is inimical to the development of Humanity's noblest attributes.' Poverty is a never-ceasing struggle for the means of living, and it makes one hard and selfish. To be sure, noble lives have been wrought out in the sternest poverty. Many such are being wrought out now, by the unknown heroes and martyrs of the Poor. I have known men and women in the very worst circumstances, to whom heroism seemed a heritage, and to be noble a natural way of living. But they were so in spite of their poverty, and not because of it. What they might have been if the world had done better by them, I cannot tell; but if their minds had been enriched by culture, the world had been the gainer. When Christ said, “Blessed are they who suffer,' he did not speak of those who suffer from want and hunger, and who always see the Bastile looming up and blotting out the sky of their future. Such suffering brutalizes True,-natures ripen and strengthen in suffering; but it is that suffering which chastens and ennobles,--that which clears the spiritual sight,-not the anxiety lest work should fail, and the want of daily bread. The beauty of Suffering is not to be read in the face of Hunger.”
And thus too it was with Robert Nicoll: “I have written," he stated in a letter to a friend, “my heart in my poems; and rude,
unfinished, and hasty as they are, it can be read there :". truly and openly he wrote his heart in these poems,-and when he tells us :"A pleasant thing it is to mind
To live again the happiest hours O' youthful thoughts an' things,
Of happy days gane by,To pu' the fruit that on the tree
To dream again as I ha'e dreamed Of Meinory ripely hings,
When I was herdin' kye!" or when he writes :
" His skin may be black, or his skin may be white,-
We'll honour the man who is honest and true!" he is but writing his own heart ; but disclosing all its love of that land,
" Where heaven taught to Robert Burns
It's hymns in language drest;" Disclosing all its adoration of nature's beauty, all its ever gushing admiration of honesty, and honor, and independence of character. In pathos and and in feeling, Nicoll excels Massey ; but in vigor, in fire, and in sustained strength, the latter is superior. There is however, another quality possessed in an eminent degree by Nicoll, and one of which Massey discovers no traits whatever-humor. We do not imply that Massey is not tender-but his tenderness, his pathos becomes intensified into passion, a passion very frequently bursting into fierceness. Born in poverty, growing up amidst hardships, he is indeed but the "child of misery,baptized in tears;" and all his feelings have been forced into what some of his critics have termed exaggeration. But is it exaggeration ? If he, like Nicoll, writes “his heart in his poems," if from the weary days of sorrow, if from the hope crushing, mind scathing woes of a youth that had nothing of youth surrounding it, he has come forth, as Alexander Smith sings
"To fling a poem, like a comet, out," what could lie write now, but the wild fierce memories of haunting griefs of days when peace went all adrift; when the future seemed a black lone sea of blank despair, and far away upon its waves, guideless, went hope, and nothing was in hope but death. Is there, in all the records of human sorrow, a more affecting account than the following, inserted in Massey's work :
" At eight years of age, Gerald Massey went into the silk-manu. factory, rising at five o'clock in the morning, and toiling there till half past-six in the evening ; up in the grey dawn, or in the winter before the daylight, and trudging to the factory through the wind, or in the snow ; seeing the sun only through the factory windows;
breathing an atmosphere laden with rank oily vapour, his ears deafened by the roar of incessant wheels :
Still all the day the iron wheels go onward,
Grinding life down from its mark;
Spin on blindly in the dark.' What a life for a child! What a substitute for tender prattle, for childish glee, for youthful playtime! Then home shivering under the cold, starless sky, on Saturday nights, with 9d., 18., or 1s. 3d., for the whole week's work; for such were the respective amounts of the wages earned by the child labour of Gerald Massey.
But the mill was burned down, and the children held jubilee over it. The boy stood for twelve hours in the wind, and sleet, and mud, rejoicing in the conflagration which thus liberated him. Who can wonder at this ? Then he went to straw-plaiting,—as toilsome, and, perhaps, more unwholesome than factory-work. Without exercise, in a marshy district, the plaiters were constantly having racking attacks of ague. The boy had the disease for three years, ending with tertian ague. Sometimes four of the family, and the mother, lay ill at one time, all crying with thirst, with no one to give them drink, and each too weak to help the other. How little do we know of the sufferings endured by the poor and struggling classes of our population, especially in our rural districts! No press echoes their wants, or records their sufferings ; and they live almost as unknown to us as if they were the inhabitants of some undiscovered country.
And now take, as an illustration, the child-life of Gerald Massey. Having had to earn my own dear bread,' he says, by the eternal cheapening of Aesh and blood thus early, I never knew what child. hood meant. I had no childhood. Ever since I can remember, I have had the aching fear of want, throbbing in heart and brow. The currents of my life were early poisoned, and few, methinks, would pass unscathed through the scenes and circumstances in which I have lived; none, if they were as curious and precocious as I was. The child comes into the world like a new coin with the stamp of God upon it; and in like manner as the Jews sweat down sovereigns, by bustling them in a bag to get gold.dust out of them, so is the poor man's child hustled and sweated down in this bag of society to get wealth out of it; and even as the impress of the Queen is effaced by the Jewish process, so is the image of God worn from heart and brow, and day by day the child recedes devil-ward. I look back now with wonder, not that so few escape, but that any escape at all, to win a nobler growth for their humanity. So blighting are the influences which surround thousands in early life, to which I can bear such bitter testimony.'
And how fared the growth of this child's mind the while ? Thanks to the care of his mother, who had sent him to the penny school, he had learnt to read, and the desire to read had been awakened. Books, however, were very scarce.
The Bible and Bunyan were the principal; he committed many chapters of the former to menory, and accepted all Bunyan's allegory as bona fide history. Afterwards he obtained access to Robinso Crusoe' and a few Wesleyan tracts left at the cottage. These constituted his sole reading, until
he came up to London, at the age of fifteen, as an errand boy; and now, for the first time in his life, he met with plenty of books, reading all that came in his way, from Lloyd's Penny Times,' to Cobbett's Works, •French without a Master,' together with English, Roman and Grecian history. A ravishing awakenment ensued, the delightful sense of growing knowledge, the charm of new thought,--the wonders of a new world. Till then,' he says, 'I had often wondered why I lived at all,—whether
'It was not better not to be,
I was so full of misery.' Now I began to think that the crown of all desire, and the sum of all existence, was to read and get knowledge. Read! read ! read! I used to read at all possible times, and in all possible places ; up in bed till two or three in the morning, nothing daunted by once setting the bed on fire. Greatly indebted was I also to the bookstalls, where I have read a great deal, often folding a leaf in a book, and returning the next day to continue the subject; but sometimes the book was gone, and then great was my grief! When out of a situation, I have often gone without a meal to purchase a book. Until I fell in love, and began to rhyme as a matter of consequence, I never had the least predilection for poetry. In fact, I always eschewed it; if I ever met with any, I instantly skipped it over, and passed on, as one does with the description of scenery, &c., in a novel. I always loved the birds and flowers, the woods and the stars ; I felt delight in being alone in a summer-wood, with song, like a spirit, in the trees, and the golden sun-bursts glinting through the verdurous roof; and was conscious of a mysterious creeping of the blood, and tingling of the nerves, when standing alone in the starry midnight, as in God's own presence-chamber. But until I began to rhyme, I cared nothing for written poetry. The first verses I ever made were upon · Hope', when I was utterly hopeless ; and after I had begun, I never ceased for about four years, at the end of which time I rushed into print.'
There was, of course, crudeness both of thought and expression in the first verses of the poet, which were published in a provincial paper. But there was nerve, rhythm, and poetry: the burthen of the song was, 'At eventime it shall be light. The leading idea of the poem was the power of knowledge, virtue, and temperance to elevate the condition of the poor,-a noble idea truly. Shortly after, he was encouraged to print a shilling volume of • Poems and Chansons,' in his native town of Tring, of which some 250 copies were sold. Of his later poems we shall afterwards speak.
But a new power was now working upon his nature, as might have been expected the power of opinion, as expressed in books, and in the discussions of his fellow-workers.
• As an errand-boy,' he says, ' I had, of course, many hardships to undergo, and to bear with much tyranny; and that led me into reasoning upon men and things, the causes of misery, the anomalies of our societary state, politics, &c., and the circle of my being rapidly outsurged. New power came to me with all that I saw, and thought, and read. I studied political works,--such as Paine, Volney,
Howitt, Louis Blanc, &c., which gave me another eleinent to mould into my verse, though I am convinced that a poet must sacrifice much if he write party-political poetry. His politics must be above the pinnacle of party zeal ; the politics of eternal truth, right, and justice. He must not waste a life on what to-morrow may prove to have been merely the question of a day. The French Revolution of 1848 had the greatest effect on me of any circumstance connected with my own life. It was scarred and blood-burnt into the very core of my being."
“ Dragged up” thus ; seeing, and bitterer still, feeling the pitiable condition of his class, and “ writing his heart," he proclaims, in THE PEOPLE'S ADVENT. The gnarliest heart hath tender chords,
To waken at the name of “ Brother; *T is coming up the steep of Time,
And time comes when brain-scorpion words And this old world is growing brighter! We shall not speak to sting each other. We may not see its dawn sublime,
'T is coming! yes, 't is coming! Yet high hopes make the heart throb
Out of the light, ye Priests, nor fling lighter, We may be sleeping in the ground,
Your dark, cold shadows on us longer!
Aside! thou world-wide curse, call’d King! When it awakes the world in wonder; But we have felt it gathering round,
The People's step is quicker, stronger.
There's a Divinity within
That makes men greatwhene'er they
God works with all who dare to win, "T is coming now, the glorious time,
And the time cometh to reveal it. Foretold by Seers, and sung in story;
'T is coming! yes, it is coming! For which, when thinking was a crime, Souls leapt to heaven from scaffolds gory !
Freedom ! the tyrants kill thy braves, They pass'd, nor see the work they wrought, Yet in our memories live the sleepers; Now the crown'd hopes of centuries And, tho' doom'd millions feed the graves, blossom !
Dug by Death's fierce, red-handed But the live lighting of their thought
The world shall not for ever bow
When flowers shall wreathe the sword And it shall write the Future s page,
for ever. To our humanity more truthful!
"T is coming! yes, 't is coming ! The following lines, by Ebenezer Elliott, are worthy to follow this extract:"The day was fair, the cannon roard, And oh, the pang their voices gave Cold blew the bracing north,
Refuses to depart !
I whisper'd to my heart.
A sudden,blusting gule,
O'er field of bloom had rudely rush'd, They sang of liberty !
And turned the roses pale. But from their lips the rose had fied,
It was as if, in glen and grove, Like .death-in-life' they smiled;
The wild birds sadly sung; And still as each pasy'd by, I said,
And every linnet mourn'd its love, Alas! is that a child ?
And every thrush its young. Flags waved, and men--a ghastly crew-
It was as if, in dungeon gloom, March'd with them side by side;
Where chain' Despair reclined, While hand in hand, and two by two,
A sound came from the living tomb, They moved-a living tide.
And hymn'd the passing wind.
And while they sang, and though they Thousands and thousands-oh, so white! siniled, With eyes so glazed and duli!
My soul groan'd heavilyAlas! it was indeed a sight
Oh! who would wish to have a child! Too sadiy beautiful!
A mother who would be !"