Dickens /Poems /The Hymn of the Wiltshire Labourers

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The Hymn of the Wiltshire Labourers – 1846 – A Poem

This poem was first published in the Daily News in 1846, and included in the later compilations of Dickens verse.

It was inspired by Lucy Simpkins, of Bremhill (or Bremble), a parish in Wiltshire, She had addressed a night meeting of the wives of agricultural labourers in that county, in support of a petition for Free Trade, and her vigorous speech on that occasion inspired Dickens to write The Hymn of the Wiltshire Labourers.
O God! who by Thy prophet’s hand
Didst smite the rocky brake,
Whence water came, at Thy command,
Thy people’s thirst to slake;
Strike, now, upon this granite wall,
Stern, obdurate, and high;
And let some drops of pity fall
For us who starve and die!
The God who took a little child
And set him in the midst,
And promised him His mercy mild,
As, by Thy Son, Thou didst:
Look down upon our children dear,
So gaunt, so cold, so spare,
And let their images appear
Where lords and gentry are!
O God! teach them to feel how we,
When our poor infants droop,
Are weakened in our trust in Thee,
And how our spirits stoop;
For, in Thy rest, so bright and fair,
All tears and sorrows sleep:
And their young looks, so full of care,
Would make Thine angels weep!
The God who with His finger drew
The judgment coming on,
Write, for these men, what must ensue,
Ere many years be gone!
O God! whose bow is in the sky,
Let them not brave and dare,
Until they look (too late) on high,
And see an Arrow there!
O God, remind them! In the bread
They break upon the knee,
These sacred words may yet be read,
“In memory of Me!”
O God! remind them of His sweet
Compassion for the poor,
And how He gave them Bread to eat,
And went from door to door!

Charles Dickens

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