Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Hartley Colliery Catastrophe

Dark gulf of death! black cavern of despair!
From your foul depths, to breathe the upper air,
No victim comes-one common living grave
Encloses all-no human aid can save!
Not one-not one-to tell the fearful tale
How hope expired, and life began to fail;
How poisonous gases drank the fainting breath-
The scene around one sweltering mass of death-
And was there nought but darkness, death, despair,
In that low dungeon? Hark! the voice of prayer,
The solemn agony of wrestling faith,
Passing to life through the dark gates of death,
And forms celestial, 'mid the gloom profound,
Bright messengers of heaven are hovering round,
To waft the ransomed spirits as they rise,
On their swift pinions to the upper skies.
Broad Britain's heart is moved, its troubled deeps
Are full of grief and horror while she weeps
Her perished ones-those pale and ghastly sleepers-
She spurns the plea-are we our brother's keepers?
'Thy brother's blood cries to me from the ground:'
An awful truth-stern, solemn, and profound,
By Heaven proclaimed-the loss so deep lamented,
By obvious means, could-should-have been prevented.
Could tender sympathy and generous deeds
Bind up each stricken heart that inly bleeds
In widowed bosoms-still the orphans' cries-
These generous pity prompt, and kind supplies?
Ah! these are wounds which only God can heal;
The strength He gives shall never faint nor fail;
Your orphans' wrongs and yours He will redress-
The widows' Judge is He in holiness.
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