[The following verses prefaced by a quotation from a London newspaper make a point familiar from Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, and others — that wealthy people and missionaries devote themselves to saving people far away while Britons are in desperate want. The introduction and verses have been transcribed from an online version provided the Suzy Covey Comic Book Collection in the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. — George P. Landow]
if the poor had more justice, they would need less charity.” Jeremy Bentham
“Death from Starvation and Exposure. – Mr. Humphreys held an inquiry at Shadwell on Saturday as to the death from starvation at exposure of a man unknown (a bone picker). . . . Dr. D. Ross said the deceased was most shockingly emaciated. The stomach and intestines were quite empty. There was some disease of the heart and lungs, but death was accelerated, if not actually caused, by want and exposure. The coroner said it was a melancholy thing to find that in London a man could die of cold and hunger on a dung-heap, and that no one should even know or care enough about him to come and identify his body. Verdict — ‘That the deceased was found dead on a certain dung heap in the Stoneyard, Shadwell, from mortal effects of exposure and destitution.’” — Daily telegraph, November 28.
Come, popular pet parsons, whose preaching's all the rage,
Come, mission-loving dowagers, who've passed that “certain age”
When ALMACK’s‘ e'en has lost its charm, and sanctity begins
To wear “false fronts,” and patronise church missions for its sins;
Come, list unto my ditty, ere you give to Timbuctoo
The sympathy denied to him whom cold and hunger slow;
While missionary legions abroad by ship-loads roam,
I'll tell you how on dung-heap died an Englishman at home!
the rain was falling bitterly, the wind was moaning bleak.
While you and I were in our beds, as crawled an outcast weak
Into a yard to lay him down, thence never more to rise
Till “the smile has time for growing” in heaven in his eyes!
He’d wandered all that awful day o'er London's miles of stones,
In his pockets but a penny and a few foul, mouldy bones;
He saw the sun sink stormily, and the night come grimly down:
God help such homeless outcasts in the streets of London town!
He saw the gas-lights flaring in the lines of blazing shops,
With a mem'ry scarce remorseful of long-eaten mutton chops;
He saw the fire-tight redden through many a window-blind
As he turned into the darkness and left all hope behind.
Hours passed. He went on looking for aught that moots the hand
Of starving kennel-rakers in our happy Christian land;
When they've begged for bread too vainly, and scarce can find a bone,
Let 'em die upon a dung-heap, their name and kin unknown!
“What need had he,” perchance you ask— when workhouses you spy,
With porters fat, in padded chairs— “in such a place to die!”
Suppose, when half that killing night he'd faced the bitter air,
His shrunken form his stumbling steps thus far could never bear ?
Down came the rain in driving gusts, and soaked into his bones,
As chin upon his chest, poor wretch, he staggered o'er the stones;
Then laid him down, all drearily, upon an ordure-heap,
Scarce caring if Eternity ere dawn broke through his sleep.
Call Mary Bloomfield into court—she'll tell you how they live
By picking rags, and bones, and scraps the frozen gutters give;
She’ll tell you what a sight she saw one windy Thursday morn
In Shadwell Stoneyard, where there lay a half-dead corpse forlorn!
His feet were ’neath some musty straw, his back against the wall,
She stirs him, but the pallid corpse ne'er answers to her call;
No more he recks of sleet and cold, of kind words vainly said,
His sands are run, his journey’s done, the bone-picker is dead!
What says P. C. McConnachie? he found him on his beat
That bitter night, and warned him off, and saw him quit his seat
Upon that dung-heap where he died. “Go home," said p’liceman K;
No home, perchance, on this side heaven, falls in such outcast’s way!
Oh! gentlemen and ladies, now nights are dark and dull.
Now knocks at workhouse gate come oft, and casual wards are full;
By the corpse of the poor bone-picker in fancy take your stand.
Ere for copper-coloured proselytes ye “compass sea and laud!”
“Starved to Death in Shadwell.” Fun. (10 December 1864): 122. Online version courtesy of the Suzy Covey Comic Book Collection in the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. Web. 30 April 2016.
Last modified 14 July 2017