Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

shadows of the fine old trees that throw their arms athwart streams dashing down their beds of solid rock, by the memory of little tender children, that never knew pity or kindness, but labored on and on, through noon and through midnight, till they slept and yet mechanically worked, and were often awaked only by the horrid machinery rending off their limbs. In places like these, wbere now the old factories and large houses of the proprietors, stand deserted, or are inhabited by troops of poor creatures, whose poverty only makes them appear the more desolate. We are told by such men as Mr. Fielden, of Oldham, once a factory child himself, and now a great manufacturer, who dares to reveal the secrets of the prison-house, that little children have eren committed suicide to escape from a life worse than ten deaths. And what a mighty system is this now become? What a perpetual and vast supply of human energy and human life it requires, with all the facilities of improved machinery, with all the developed power of steam, and with all the glowing thirst of wealth to urge it on! We are told that the state of the factories is improved, and I trust they are; but if there be any truth in the evidence given before the Parliamentary committees, there is need of great amelioration yct; and it is, when we recollect these things, bow completely the laboring class has, in these districts, been regarded as mere machinery for the accumulation of enormous capitals, that we cease to wonder at their uncouth and degraded aspect, and at the neglect in which they are suffered to swarm over these hills, like the very weeds of humanity, cast out into disre

garded places, and left to spread and increase in rank and deleterious luxuriance."

What is so poetically and graphically described by Mr. Howitt, is verified in its minutest details in the “Glory and Shame of England,” a very interesting work by C. Edwards Lester, an abolitionist of New York.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE DISTRESSED NEEDLE-WOMEN AND HOOD'S SONG

OF THE SHIRT.

rather say,

We take what follows from the January No., 1849, of the Westminster Review-we having nothing to remark, except as to the line from the French song, which has taken the place of the Marseilloise as the great National Song, we should

National Dirge. It is the maddening cry of hunger for employment and bread, and more resembles the howl of the wolves of the Pyrennes, as they start in quest of prey, than the Anthem of Liberty. It truly represents, embodies and personifies the great Socialistic movement of the day. Whilst statesmen and philosophers speculate, the mass agitate, organize and threaten. Winter before last, they took possession of the streets of New York, and levied enforced charity. This spring, they meet in the Park and resolve, “that there were fifty thousand men and women in vain seeking employment during the last inclement winter. America echoes to France, “Vivre en travaillant, ou mourir en combatant!” 'Tis the tocsin and the watchword of free society. 'Tis the grum

bling noise of the heaving volcano, that thre: ens and precedes a social eruption greater than the world has yet witnessed. But let us give the language of the Reviewer:

“The question of human misery-its causes and heir removal, is at the bottom of the movement which is now convulsing Europe, and which threatens to agitate i for some time to come. Could some practicable scheme of relief, generally acceptable to all classes and adequate to cope with the magnitude of the evil, be but suggested, what a load of anxiety would be taken from the mind of many a Minister of State !-what comfort would be offered to many a desponding philanthropist!

"Human misery has at last found tongues and pens to make itself heard and felt. It appeals to our feelings and our understandings, to our sympathies and fears. Its wails melt us to pity, its ravings terrify us, its woes sicken us. It will no longer hide itself. We must either remove it, or submit to have it constantly exposed to our gaze in all its horrid deformity.

“ Hitherto the comfortable classes have virtually answered the bitter complaints of the uncomfortable classes in some such terms as these: "Poor people! we are very sorry for your suffering-we really feel for you-take this trifle-it will be some relief. We wish we could do more;-and now pray be quiet-don't distress us with your writhings and agonies-resign yourselves to the will of Providence, and bear hunger and cold in peace and seclusion;-above all, attempt no violence, or we must use violence to keep you quiet. The answer of the un

comfortable classes to such admonitions, day by day becoming more unmistakable, is: Relieve us, relieve us! Make us comfortable, or show us how we may make ourselves comfortable: otherwise we must make you uncomfortable. We will be comfortable or uncomfortable together.'

"Vivre en travaillant, ou mourir en combatant. In our last number, we ventured to offer a few indications as to what we considered a part, an important part, of the remedial measures to be resorted to for the prevention of human misery. We were then dealing with that question as a whole. We now propose to address ourselves to miseries of a class.

“The sufferings of the distressed needle-woman have obtained an infamous notoriety—they are a scandal to our age and a reproach to our boasted civilization. They have been clothed in language at once truthful and impressive, full of pathos and yet free from exaggeration. Well known as Hood's immortal lines may be, we reproduce them here, because no narrative, no statistics of ours, could be more true nor half so much to the purpose:

THE SONG OF THE SHIRT.

“With fingers weary and worn,

With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,

Plying her needle and thread.
Stitch-stitch-stitch!

In poverty, hunger, and dirt;
And still, with a voice of dolorous pitch,

She sang the “Song of the Shirt!'

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »