A Prayer in the City.

Ah, me ! the City groaneth at my feet,1
And all the crowd, oh God, is faint with woe ;2
Help have I none nor any message meet.3
Teach me that I may know !4
Behold the little children everywhere,5
But not the little ones of old I knew ;6
Fledglings they seem, when all the woods are bare,7
Flowers, where there falls no dew.8
Whose are they ?  for the parents heed them not,9
And men are all too busy as they pass ;10
Their place is with the shameless and the sot,11
Lost in the huddling mass.12
The fair green fields, wherein the cowslips come,13
The streams whereby the tasselled grasses wave :14
These are as lands unknown ; the garret home15
Must hold them to the grave.16
The song of birds, that in sweet seasons mate,17
And fill the pleasant May-time with delight ;18
Shall never reach these little slaves of fate19
Wrapped in their smoky night.20
Yet have they guests that will not be denied.21
As warders ever waiting at the door,22
Grim Fever, with lank Famine at her side,23
These, and a thousand more.24
See how the sunshine trembles on its way,25
So dark are all these alleys in the shade ;26
Oh God, to think our palace builders stay,27
So near, yet undismayed !28
We pile the marble for the rich man’s tomb,29
We hang the satin at my lady’s head ;30
Why, then, are human lives within the gloom31
Less cared for than the dead ?32
The babbling stream of fashion comes and goes,33
And every bubble finds some fool to follow ;34
But the great tide that heaves to speechless woes,35
Rolls on, and voices hollow,36
Come from the hearts that should be first to bleed,37
How very sad,” they say, “ that such things are ;38
But ’tis the law of God that one man’s need39
Should light another’s star.”40
Oh, idle prompting of the idle mind !41
That dares not pierce the veil that shrouds our lot ;42
How shall the foolish swimmer hope to find43
Pearl, if he diveth not ?44
From every side the voices call us now,45
Come up and help, for we are well-nigh spent ;46
The deeps are closing, and we know not how47
The succour shall be sent.48
We yet are brother, though the primal stain49
Make labour seem a never-ending ill ;50
And through the shadows, sorrow more than gain,51
Shall keep us brothers still.52
We ask for hearts tho’ busied beating yet53
We ask for hands, yet warm, to bring us aid ;54
These are the gifts that busy souls forget,55
These are the debts unpaid.”56
Surely our riches are not where we think,57
And the kind thought is more than all our store,58
Give me the children’s laugh ; te guinea’s chink59
Is failing more and more.60
Therefore, oh God, I tread this City street,61
With sadness that is not a foolish grief ;62
And from thine heavens I hear my message meet63
Take heart—I bring relief.”64