Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Contrast

See yonder wretched little girl,
Braving cold, and want, and peril,
Wandering through the frozen street,
Seeking her she fears to meet;
Matted locks hang round her ears,
From her wild eyes rain the tears;
In her arms a squalid child,
Wrapt in rags all torn and soil'd,
Clinging to her shivering breast-
Young bird cast from rifled nest.
Now the mother's form she sees,
Drooping head and tottering knees,
Babbling tongue and idiot stare,
Ah! too well her state declare.
'Mother! mother! father's come;
Haste! Oh haste! he waits at home!'
Ay! he waits for her returning,
Wrath and hate within him burning.
Oh! that home, how desolate!
Bare the walls, and cold the grate;
Empty cupboard, naked bed,
Health and peace and comfort fled!
Hark, those sounds! your ears they tingle!
Blows and shrieks and curses mingle-
Words of passion, fierce and wild.
Weeping girl and screaming child,
While the shades of evening close,
Cowering, sobbing, seek repose;
Couched on straw, the group, forlorn,
Wait the miseries of the morn.
God! I pray, with heart high swelling,
Mercy on the drunkard's dwelling.
See that playful, laughing girl,
Lips of rose, and teeth of pearl,
Brow unwrinkled by a frown.
Waving locks of golden brown,
Shading soft her azure eyes,
Dimpled cheeks, whose hue outvies
Rose-bud wild, I hear her singing-
O'er the mead her wild flight winging-
Weaving 'neath the willow bushes
Coronets of fragrant rushes.
Mother at the cottage door-
Gazing the fair landscape o'er-
Sees on homeward path advancing,
Her wee daughter skipping, dancing,
Fill'd her lap, and hands, and bosom
With flowery blooms and hawthorn blossom.
Look within; how clean and neat!
The fire is bright, the tea is set;
The father lifts his eyes to heaven,
And asks on all its bounties given,
God's blessing. Now the blooms and roses
Are laid aside; the evening closes-
The blinds are drawn-fast closed the door-
And now, upon the cottage floor,
That lovely, lowly group are kneeling
In fervent prayer, to Heaven appealing;
And while their hymn of praise is swelling,
We'll pray, 'God bless the temperance dwelling.'
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