Изображения страниц

A thing to make all christians sad and shivery
To think of millions of immortal souls
Dwelling in bodies black as coals,

And living-so to speak-in Satan's livery! ,

Money-the root of evil, dross, and stuff!

But oh! how happy ought the rich to feel, Whose means enabled them to give enough

To blanch an African from head to heel, How blessed-yea, thrice blessed-to subscribe

Enough to scour a tribe! While he whose fortune was at least a brittle one, Although he gave but pence, how sweet to know He helped to bleach a Hottentot's great toe

Or little one!

Moved by this logic, or appallid,

of a certain turn so proper The money came when call’d.

In silver, gold, and copper, Presents from “ Friends to blacks," or foes to whites, “ Trifles,” and “offerings,” and “ widow's mites,” Plump legacies, and yearly benefactions,

With other gifts

And charitable lifts,
Printed in lists and quarterly transactions.

As thus, Elisha Brettel,
An iron kettle.
The Dowager Lady Scannel,
A piece of flannel.
Rebecca Pope,

A bar of soap.

The Misses Howels,
Half-a-dozen towels.
The Master Rush's,
Two scrubbing-brushes.
Mr. T. Groom,
A stable broom,
And Mrs. Grubb,
A tub.

Great were the sums collected !
And great results in consequence expected.

But somehow, in the teeth of all endeavour,

According to reports

At yearly courts,
The blacks, confound them ! were as black as ever!

Yes ! spite of all the water sous'd aloft,
Soap, plain and mottled, hard and soft,
Soda and pearlash, huckaback and sand,
Brooms, brushes, palm of hand,
And scourers in the office strong and clever,

In spite of all the tubbing, rubbing, scrubbing,

The routing and the grubbing,
The blacks, confound them, were as black as ever!

In fact in his perennial speech,
The Chairman ownd the niggers did not bleach,

As he had loped,

From being washed and soaped,
A circumstance he named with grief and pity;
But still he had the bappiness to say,

For self and the Committee,
By persevering in the present way,
And scrubbing at the Blacks from day to day,

Although he could not promise perfect white,

From certain symptoms that had come to light, He hoped in time to get them gray!

Lull’d by this vague assurance,
The friends and patrons of the sable tribe

Continued to subscribe,
And waited, waited on with much endurance
Many a frugal sister, thrifty daughter-
Many a stinted widow, pinching mother-
With income by the tax made soniewhat shorter,
Still paid implicitly her crown per quarter,
Only to hear as ev'ry year came round,
That Mr. Treasurer had spent her pound;
And as she loved her sable brother,
That Mr. Treasurer must have another !

But, spite of pounds or guineas,

Instead of giving any hint
Of turning to a neutral tint,

The plaguy negroes and their piccaninnies
Were still the colour of the bird that caws—
Only some very aged souls
Showing a little gray upon their polls,

Like daws!

However, nothing dashed
By such repeated failures, or abash'd,
The Court still met ;-the Chairman and Directors,

The Secretary, good at pen and ink,
The worthy Treasurer, who kept the chink,

And all the cash collectors;
With hundreds of that class, so kindly credulous,

Without whose help, no charlatan alive,

Or Bubble Company could hope to thrive,
Or busy Chevalier, however sedulous-
Those good and easy innocents in fact,

Who willingly receiving chaff for corn,
As pointed out by Butler's tact,
Still find a secret pleasure in the act

Of being pluck'd and shorn!

However, in long hundreds there they were,

Thronging the hot, and close, and dusty court,
To hear once more addresses from the Chair

And regular Report.
Alas! concluding in the usual strain,

That what with everlasting wear and tear,

The scrubbing-brushes hadn't got a hair-
The brooms-mere stumps—would never serve again-
The soap was gone, the flannels all in shreds,

The towels worn to threads,
The tubs and pails too shatter'd to be mended

And what was added with a deal of pain,

But as accounts correctly would explain,
Tho' thirty thousand pounds had been expended-

The Blackamoors had still been wash'd in vain !

“In fact, the negroes were as black as ink,

Yet, still as the Committee dared to think,
And hoped the proposition was not rash,
A rather free expenditure of cash"
But ere the prospect could be made more sunny-

Up jump'd a little, lemon-coloured man,

And with an eager stammer, thus began,
In angry earnest, though it sounded funny:
“ What! More subscriptions ! No-no-no-not I!

You have had time-time-time enough to try!
They won't come white ! then why-why-why-why-why,

More money?"

Why !” said the Chairman, with an accent bland,
And gentle waving of his dexter hand,
Why must we have more dross, and dirt, and dust,

More filthy lucre, in a word, more gold

The why, sir, very easily is told,
Because Humanity declares we must !
We've scrubb'd the negroes till we've nearly killed 'em,

And finding that we cannot wash them white,
But still their nigritude offends the sight,

We mean to gild 'em !"




It was in a dream, a vision generated during an after-dinner doze by the fireside, that a many-faced portrait presented itself to my eyes.

Through his torn and scanty garments pierced the raw wind of a night in February. The rain, too, had done its work, and he seemed cut to the heart with cold. Weariness and hunger, added to his helplessness, so that he crept along close to the wall at a very slow pace; until turning down a miserable alley in the meanest part of the town, he stopped at an old creaking house, the door of which stood open, and descended by three or four steps

into dark looked like a grave.

Along this he groped his way to a narrow staircase, up which he dragged his limbs with difficulty to the top, where a garret, whose broken casement, lately repaired with paper, admitted the wind that now fairly rocked the rickety tenement, received its weekly hirer.

Here a feeble light was, after many fruitless efforts, procured, and the shattered panes being presently stopped up, so as partially to exclude the blast, its dull rays flickered on the bare discoloured walls of the sloping-roofed chamber, disclosing its empty fireplace, and its low

passage, that

comfortless bed in one corner, covered with a blanket. On a shelf in another corner, were some stale fragments of a meal; and to these, seating himself at a table beside the tireless grate, the weary and famished wanderer (at length at home) applied himself, in a manner indicating that there was nothing unusual in the scantiness of the fare, and the chilling misery of the scene. Soaked to the skin, solitary and desolate, his face, although expressive enough of physical want and wretchedness, evinced no sense of any sufiering not frequently experienced.

The dry, cold repast finished, his wet clothes were thrown off, and merciful sleep snatched him from the loathsome realities of his condition, wrapping him in a welcome oblivion. But before daybreak, long before, the same wet clothes were resumed, and he crept in pitch darkness down the stairs, still slippery with the mud of yesterday, to commence another dismal day of drudgery, hardship, and contumely, for a pittance that barely sufficed to keep the little flame of life which yet lent a ghastly light to his eyes, from going out altogether.

And the next day, and the next, from winter to winter, year after year, as from infancy to midlife it had been, it was the same. His had been one unvarying round of low grovelling care, and hopeless penury.

In youth, without a spark of energy, without one throb of honourable ambition, with no spur, save that of sharp hunger, to urge him forward, he had crawled on when compelled, and had received the cuffs of the world with a patience that looked at last like indifference. He could say nothing, he could do nothing in return. He was a wight whom everybody put upon, because he knew so well how to bear. No ill-usage came amiss to him. So far from having spirit to resent a blow, he took it as a portion of his destiny, against which it were vain to struggle. He seemed by his very impotence and pititulness to have a right to be despised.

The only touch of tenderness ever mingled with the rough knocks and insults allotted to him by his fellow-mortals, came now and then in a kind of scornful pity, expressed in the exclamation, “ Poor devil!" -a touch of tenderness not unaccompanied perhaps, by a half goodnatured, half-treacherous kick.

As he became more and more imbecile and spiritless, his patience became more dogged, and the cuffs and crosses severer. Extra service was extracted from him by his task-master for less money; every mile he was set trudging, grew into a mile and a half; and the heavy burdens doubled themselves on his drooping shoulders; yet he was expected to be back sooner than ever.

“ Wretch! do you take an hour to walk four miles, carrying only two hundred-weight!"

All felt that they had a prescriptive right to oppress him, because oppression was a thing he was used to. He expected it. But it was not alone intentional insult and ill-usage that weighed him down, and made his forty years three-score and ten; Il-luck ever delighted to attend upon him. Fate, as well as his fellow-men, seemed to conspire against him. In his passage through the crowd of life, the pitiless storm was ever in his teeth; and as if this were not enough, he was always doomed to catch the drippings of other people's umbrellas.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »