Recently in Poverty Category

A Toff's House by C.J. Dennis

| No TrackBacks
Referring to the recent Parliament slum visit, a clergyman said on Sunday that little had been done hitherto to remove the blot as the vision of party politicians does not extend beyond the next election.

Me muvver, she sez as she'd like to know
   Wot these parly-mint coves is doin',
Pokin' their noses all over the show
   An' callin' her house a rooin.
"Rooin," they sez.  "Wot swualler" sez they.
   If they doubled me ole dad's wages
We could live in a toff's 'ouse straight away,
   An' I wouldn't leave school for ages.
Fer I couldn't play wag with me mates no more --
An' help in the market for thrums no more --
   Just ole lessons for ages an' ages.
Me muvver, she sez, if we had some votes
   For to win an election battle,
We wouldn't be here like a lot of goats,
   Or the poor, dumb, driven cattle.
But she don't know 'ow, an' she don't know 'oo
   Would carry 'er party banners.
But we'd live in a toff's 'ouse, spankin' noo.
   An' I'd have to learn good manners.
Fer I couldn't punch coots on the nose no more,
An' I couldn't go tearin' me clo'es no more;
   But she'd learn me proper manners.
"The slums?" sez me muvver.  "The slums indeed!"
   An' she'd like for to know 'oo said it.
Fair off of 'er floor you could eat yer feed;
   But they never give 'er no credit.
If sweepin' an scrubbin' had wealth at call
   We'd be all of us livin' in clover,
Set up in a toff's 'ouse -- barfs an' all --
   An' I'd have to wash all over!
For I couldn't just slash at the top no more,
Like a sensible, growed-up chap no more:
   But wash in a barf, all over!
Me muvver she sez to the man from the shop,
   It's these parly-mint coves ixpenses.
If we bundled out all of 'em, neck an' crop,
   Then we might 'ave some money for fences.
"A scandal!" she sez.  "An' a shame!" sez, she,
   "That fence atwixt me an' them Johnsons!"
But to live in a toff's 'ouse looks to me
   Like a lot of ole lessons an' nonsense.
For I couldn't stay out in the street no more;
An' I couldn't run 'round in bare feet no more,
Nor 'ave good wile rabbee to eat no more --
   Just manners an' lessons an' nonsense!

First published in The Herald, 21 August 1935

My Poor Relation by C. J. Dennis

| No TrackBacks
I have a poor relation, but
   He never troubles me.
He's bowed with care; he wears an air
   Of abject misery.
Yet, I am happy to relate,
He never is importunate.

I meet him often in the street;
   Sometimes he speaks to me;
I know, indeed, he is in need -
   That's very plain to see.
Yet, tho' he is in want, I own
He never asks me for a loan. 

His cuffs are frayed around the edge;
   His hat's a sight to see;
His coat is torn; his pants are worn,
   And baggy at the knee.
Yet, tho' his need is manifest,
He never brings me one request.

I know he often wants for food,
   His tradesmen are unpaid,
His life's accurst with one large thirst
   That never is allayed.
Yet, ne'er by hint or sign does he
Suggest that it is "up to me." 

Is he too proud?  Well, truly, no;
   To beg he's not ashamed.
Yet, his neglect in that respect,
   Is scarcely to be blamed.
In fact he knows full well, you see,
That I am just as poor as he.

First published in The Gadfly, 27 March 1907;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913; and
Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

The Lack by C.J. Dennis

| No TrackBacks
The Bergavenny (Wales) guardians have established a "modern home," costing £8000, where tramps can lie in bed and push a bell to summon an attendant.  There will be hot baths and showers, with hot suppers, which can be taken in bed if the inmate is not well.

"This is the life!" said Dusty Dan --
"This is the life to hand a man!
My happy way is strewn with flowers;
But why waste money on the showers?

"The hard cash wasted on that bath
Might yet make pleasanter my path,
If wisely spent on bottled beer
And motor cars to fetch us here!"

First published in The Sun-News Pictorial, 15 March 1927

God's Own by Louisa Lawson

| No TrackBacks
Beside a cupboard bare of food
   A trembling woman feebly stood,
With languid eyes in wasted face
   She looked around her cheerless place;
But "God is good," she softly said,
   As hopefully she raised her head.

The soft wind frolicked with the gress;
   The young leaves shone like burnished brass;
The flowers that grew around her door
   Cast their sweet petals on the floor,
The sparrows twittered overhead:
   "Yes, God is good," she slowly said.

"But oh! my poor heart, can it be
   That He has ceased to care for me?
Sometimes I think it must be so,
   For I have had such pain and woe,
And I not more than they," she said,
   "The sparrows -- and -- He gives them bread.

"Too weak to work, too old, too old!
   And now my poor things met be sold;
The cradle and the little chair,
   The toy box, ah! that God would spare!
I thought if I had faith He would;
   But I am starving now for food."

A whistle, loud and sharp and shrill,
   Set her weak pulses all thrill;
"Please sign it here, the postman said,
   "'Tis from the west, and registered."
"My boy," she cried, "I thought him dead.
   Aye! God is good," the woman said.

First published in The Sydney Mail, 23 December 1908;
and later in
Louisa Lawson: Collected Poems with Selected Critical Commentaries edited by L.M. Rutherford, M.E. Roughley and Nigel Spence, 1996.

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of BiographyAustralian Poetry Library

See also.

Honest Poverty by Charles Harpur

| No TrackBacks
While some for wealth, and some for birth,
Claim honor -- there is naught I see
More honorable on the earth
Than Honest Poverty.

What motive hath the millionaire
To cheat or steal -- or rather what
(To keep his dealings ever fair)
Strong motive hath he not?  

But when amid the hungry woes
Of Poverty's disastrous war,  
Shines honesty -- O then it shows
More glorious than a star!

But what if cowardice but keeps
The poor man's tempted will from vice?  
Ask they who sneer where Brotherhood weeps --
What call they cowardice?  

If he who needs yet dares not touch
Unrighteously his neighbour's store,
A coward is -- God keep him such
A coward evermore.

Let Wealth and Birth world-honored be,
But on a juster-nobler plan,
The hero of his God is he,
The Poor yet Honest Man!

First published in The Sydney Chronicle, 13 November 1847;
and later in 
The Poetical Works of Charles Harpur edited by Elizabeth Perkins, 1984.

This poem was published with the following author's note: There is no Poem I have written more opportune in its spirit than this one, or more calculated, if taken heartily, to operate wholesomely, by purging our individual sympathies of a great social disease.  A dishonest shame of honest poverty is the all-pervading ignobility of the times. Rather than be poor, men will readily become any thing they should not. Rather than be thought so, they will lie; rather than appear so, from their associations, they will abandon their own blood; rather than live so, they will swindle; and rather than die so, they will die damned. Fools! what fear they? Are they philosophers? Socrates was poor. Are they poets? Homer begged his bread, being blind; and   Burns died, as the mighty Wordsworth lives, an exciseman. And finally, are they Christians?   Their great and perfect-minded Master had not where to lay his head! Shame then upon this meanest of all the manifestations of cowardice! To give the sum of the whole question in a word: wealth in itself is only an honorable attribute when it is the uninherited fruit (and therefore the evidence) of industry, probity and skill; and poverty only dishonorable to any, when it manifestly proceeds from sloth and irrectitude.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Poverty category.

Politics and Politicians is the previous category.

Prisons and Prisoners is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en