Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

Barnsley Colliery Explosion

Far, far below, oh, far below,
Where sulphurous lightnings flash and glow,
Where blasting, bellowing thunders roar
With rending crash-dark Stygian shore;
Black gulf of horrors, dark, profound,
Where ambush'd demons lurk around-
Waiting to light the horrid gloom
With lurid, scorching, fiery spume
Of deadly gases. Woe, oh woe!
How long, how long shall it be so?
How long be sacrificed in vain
These hideous hecatombs of slain?
Pale Science weeps, her troubled eye
Falls on the victims as they lie-
Scorched, crushed, and mutilated forms,
Dire wrecks of subterranean storms,
That ravage with resistless sweep
Those regions of the deeper deep.
For she had studied, searched, and toiled,
Had seen her best inventions foiled
With 'can't be troubled,' ''tis no use,'
'Too much expense,' neglect, abuse
Of her injunctions. Hark! the shock
Explosive through the cavern rock,
The scathing fire, the choking damp.
'Do you not use the safety lamp?'
You ask of some poor writhing wretch.
'The fireman quite forgot to fetch
The warning light. Alas, alas!
Our naked lights fired off the gas;
The mine was foul, and must explode,
And then along the flame-swept road
A hundred smouldering corpses lay.
Yet I survive-woe worth the day!'
What wailing shrieks, what groans of woe,
What tears of burning anguish flow
From eyes that weep the heart-springs dry!
What calls that meet with no reply!
The grey-haired widow calls her boy-
Her duteous lad, her pride and joy;
Sobbing, the newly wedded wife
Calls on the partner of her life;
The widowed mother to her breast
Her orphan babe hath closely pressed;
And, followed by a childish train,
Calls on the father's name in vain.
Alas! that voice, once loved and dear,
Will reach no more his death-closed ear.
Now angel Pity, hand in hand
With Charity, walks through the land;
Benevolence, strong in wealth and power,
Sheds from both hands a golden shower,
Till hearts bereaved hail, even in grief,
With grateful tears the blest relief.
Ah! it is well it should be so:
But there are words of deeper woe
'Than even the wail above the dead.'
What of the soul so quickly sped
To that dark bourne, that unknown shore
Whence traveller can return no more?
We may not lift the awful veil,
Nor, if we might, would it avail;
Their state is fixed; yet all must know
Who labour in the 'shades below,'
That, standing face to face with death,
He with a blast-a flash-a breath
May quench the life. Then oh, beware!
You may with caution, means, and care,
And trust in Providence Divine,
Avert the dangers of the mine.
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