Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Plague Of Our Isle

It is said, it is sung, it is written, and read,
It sounds in the ear, and it swims in the head,
It booms in the air, it is borne o'er the sea-
'There's a good time coming,' but when shall it be?
Shall it be when Intemperance, enthroned on the waves
Of a dark sea of ruin, is scooping the graves
Of thousands, while redly the dark current rolls
With the blood of her victims-the slaughter of souls?
A canker is found in the bud, flower, and fruit
Of human progression-a worm at the root
Of social improvement-a fiery simoom
That sweeps o'er the masses to burn and consume.
'Tis found on the heaven-hallow'd day of repose-
Blest haven of rest from our toils and our woes!-
That voice of the drunkard, the oath, curse, and brawl,
Are sounds of such frequence, they cease to appal.
We see the grey father, the youth in his prime,
Throw soul, sense, and feeling, health, substance, and time,
In the cup of the drunkard-the mother and wife
Hugs the snake in her bosom that 'venoms her life.
We see the gaunt infant, so feeble and pale,
Crave nature's sweet fluid from fountains that fail;
Or run with hot poison, distill'd from the breast
Of the mother-O monstrous!-a drunkard, a pest!
We've seen, with her bright hair all clotted with blood,
Lie cold on the hearth-where at morning she stood
The wife of a summer-a babe on her breast-
The husband a drunkard-let death tell the rest.
And darker and deeper the horrors that shroud
The brain of the drunkard; what dark phantoms crowd
'The cells of his fancy,' his couch of despair
Is empty-the suicide slumbers not there!
O why do we seek, do we hope to bestow
'The colours of heaven on the dwellings of woe?'
'Tis temperance must level the strongholds of crime-
'Tis temperance must herald the 'coming good time.'
Then, turn ye! Oh, turn ye! for why will ye die?
Ye shrink from the plague when its advent is nigh-
The Indian pestilence, the plague of old Nile-
Less deadly by far than the Plague of our Isle!
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