A Lamentation for the Oppressed
Author not known©1791SWEET smiling Village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all the green;
One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain:
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
But choak'd with sedges, works its weedy way.
Along thy glades, a solitary guest,
The hollow sounding bittern guards its nest;
Amidst thy desart walks the lapwing flies,
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries.
Sunk are thy bowers, in shapeless ruin all,
And the long grass o'ertops the mould'ring wall;
And trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;
Princes and lords may flourish or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroy'd, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintain'd its man,
For him light labour spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more:
His best companions, innocence and health;
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
But times are alter'd; trade's unfeeling train
Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain;
Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose,
Unweildy wealth, and cumbrous pomp repose;
And every want to opulence allied,
And every pang that folly pays to pride.
These gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
Those calm desires that ask'd but little room,
Those healthful sports that grac'd the peaceful scene
Liv'd in each look, and brighten'd all the green;
These far departing seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more.
Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,
These simple blessings of the lowly train;
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art;
Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play,
The soul adopt, and owns their first-born sway;
Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind,
Unenvied, unmolested, unconfin'd.
But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade,
With all the freaks of wanton wealth array'd,
In these, ere trifles half their wish obtain,
The toiling pleasure sickens into pain;
And, even while fashions brightest arts decoy,
The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy?
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen, who survey
The rich man's joys encrease, the poor's decay,
Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand
Between a splendid and an happy land.
Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore,
And snouring folly hails them from her shore;
Hoards even beyond the miser's wish abound,
And rich men flock from all the world around,
Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name
That leaves our useful products still the same.
Not so the loss. The man of wealth and pride,
Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
Space for his lake; his parks extended bounds;
Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth,
Has robb'd the neighbouring fields of half their growth;
His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
Around the world each needful product flies,
For all the luxuries the world supplies,
While thus the land adorn'd for pleasure, all
In barren splendor feebly waits the fall.
As some fair female unadorn'd and plain,
Secure to please while youth confirms her reign,
Slights every borrowed charm that dress supplies,
Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes;
But when those charms are past, for charms are frail,
When time advances and when lovers fail,
She then shines forth, solicitous to bless,
In all the glaring impotence of dress.
Thus fares the land by luxury betrayed,
In nature's simplest charmes at first arrayed,
But verging to decline, its splendors rife,
Its vistas strike, its palaces surprize;
While scourg'd by famine from the smiling land,
The mournful peasant leads his humble band;
And while he sinks without one arm to save,
The country blooms--a garden, and a grave.
Where then, ah where, shall poverty reside,
To scape the pressure of contiguous pride.
If to some common's fenceless limits stray'd,
He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade.
Those fenceless fields the sons of whealth divide,
And even the bare-worn common is denied.
If to the city sped--What waits him there?
To see profusion that he must not share;
To see ten thousand baneful arts combin'd
To pamper luxury and thin mankind;
To see those joys the sons of pleasure know,
Extorted from his fellow-creatures' woe.
Here where the courtier glitters in brocade,
There the pale artist plies the sickly trade;
Here, while the proud their long-dawn pomps display,
There the black gibbet glooms beside the way.
The dome where pleasure holds her midnight reign,
Here richly deck'd, admits the gorgeous train;
Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square,
The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare.
Sure scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy?
Sure these denote one universal joy?
Are these thy serious thoughts?--Ah, turn thine eyes
Where the poor houseless shivering female lies.
She once perhaps in village plenty blest,
Has wept at tales of innocence distrest;
Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn;
Now lost to all; her friends, her virtue sled;
Near her betrayer's door she lays her head,
And pinch'd with cold, and shrinking from the shower,
With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour,
When idly first ambitious of the town,
She left her wheel and robes of country brown.
NotesFrom PIGS' MEAT; OR, LESSONS FOR THE SWINISH MULTITUDE.
PUBLISHED IN WEEKLY PENNY NUMBERS, Collected by the Poor Man's Advocate (an old Veteran in the Cause of Freedom) in the Course of his Reading for more than Twenty Years. This is that matchless Pigs meat so famous far and near
Oppressors hearts it fills with Dread. But poor Mens hearts does cheer. Return to top of page
union songs..........a selection by mark gregory