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Poems About Poverty

Table of Contents

  1. God Pity the Poor by Anonymous
  2. Remember the Poor by Hattie Howard
  3. Nobody's Child by Phila H. Case
  4. The Poor by Jones Very
  5. The Beggar by Anonymous
  6. It Snows by Sarah Josepha Hale
  7. Song of the Shirt by Thomas Hood
  8. Is There for Honest Poverty by Robert Burns
  9. I Know a Man by Annette Wynne

  1. God Pity the Poor

    God pities the poor, no doubt;
    But how am I pitying them?

    - Amos Russel Wells
    God Pity the Poor
    by Amos Russel Wells

    "God pity the poor!" I cry.
    And I feel a virtuous glow;
    Not many so tender as I
    To the weight of the sad world's woe.

    "God pity the poor!" I shout,
    And draw back my garment's hem.
    God pities the poor, no doubt;
    But how am I pitying them?

  2. Remember the Poor

    by Hattie Howard

    A far greater blessing to us 't will insure,
    And a mansion in Heaven will help to secure,
    If we have in kindness remembered the poor.

  3. Nobody's Child

    by Phila H. Case

    Alone in the dreary, pitiless street,
    With my torn old dress, and bare, cold feet,
    All day have I wandered to and fro,
    Hungry and shivering, and nowhere to go;
    The night's coming on in darkness and dread,
    And the chill sleet beating upon my bare head.
    Oh! why does the wind blow upon me so wild?
    Is it because I am nobody's child?

    Just over the way there's a flood of light,
    And warmth, and beauty, and all things bright;
    Beautiful children, in robes so fair,
    Are caroling songs in their rapture there.
    I wonder if they, in their blissful glee,
    Would pity a poor little beggar like me,
    Wandering alone in the merciless street,
    Naked and shivering, and nothing to eat?

    Oh! what shall I do when the night comes down
    In its terrible blackness all over the town?
    Shall I lay me down 'neath the angry sky,
    On the cold, hard pavement, alone to die,
    When the beautiful children their prayers have said,
    And their mammas have tucked them up snugly in bed?
    For no dear mother on me ever smiled.
    Why is it, I wonder, I'm nobody's child?

    No father, no mother, no sister, not one
    In all the world loves me—e'en the little dogs run
    When I wander too near them; 'tis wondrous to see
    How everything shrinks from a beggar like me!
    Perhaps 'tis a dream; but sometimes, when I lie
    Gazing far up in the dark blue sky,
    Watching for hours some large bright star,
    I fancy the beautiful gates are ajar,

    And a host of white-robed, nameless things
    Come fluttering o'er me on gilded wings;
    A hand that is strangely soft and fair
    Caresses gently my tangled hair,
    And a voice like the carol of some wild bird—
    The sweetest voice that was ever heard—
    Calls me many a dear, pet name,
    Till my heart and spirit are all aflame.

    They tell me of such unbounded love,
    And bid me come to their home above;
    And then with such pitiful, sad surprise
    They look at me with their sweet, tender eyes,
    And it seems to me, out of the dreary night
    I am going up to that world of light,
    And away from the hunger and storm so wild;
    I am sure I shall then be somebody's child.

  4. The Poor

    by Jones Very

    I walk the streets and though not meanly drest,
    Yet none so poor as can with me compare;
    For none though weary call me into rest,
    And though I hunger, none their substance share;
    I ask not for my stay the broken reed,
    That fails when most I want a friendly arm;
    I cannot on the loaves and fishes feed
    That want the blessing that they may not harm;
    I only ask the living word to hear
    From tongues that now but speak to utter death;
    I thirst for one cool cup of water clear
    But drink the riled stream of lying breath;
    And wander on though in my Fatherland,
    Yet hear no welcome voice and see no beckoning hand.

  5. The Beggar

    by Anonymous

    All day, all the day, in the dust, in the heat,
    With maddening brain and with staggering feet,
    I stand on Life's highway, and beg my soul's meat.

    All day, all the day, in the cold, in the rain,
    Through days that are vapid and timeless with pain,
    I stretch out my hand to the rich—and in vain.

    Oh, my soul is a-hungered—my soul is athirst!
    It cries out to mortals as one God-accurst,
    Abandoned of Heaven, when life is at worst.

    Say, say, is there any 'neath heaven's blue sky
    So beggared of faith, hope, and courage as I?
    Give, give, oh, my brothers! Give, give, or I die!

    Shall I famish and faint in the midst of Life's mart.
    And ye who seem pitiful, spare not a part
    Of your souls' garnered wealth for one needy poor heart?

    In vain! Ye fling alms to the rags that ye meet;
    But souls that lie naked and starved at your feet;
    These cry out unheard, and must die on the street.

  6. It Snows

    by Sarah Josepha Hale

    "It snows!" cries the Schoolboy, "Hurrah!" and his shout
    Is ringing through parlor and hall,
    While swift as the wing of a swallow, he's out,
    And his playmates have answered his call;
    It makes the heart leap but to witness their joy;
    Proud wealth has no pleasures, I trow,
    Like the rapture that throbs in the pulse of the boy
    As he gathers his treasures of snow;
    Then lay not the trappings of gold on thine heirs,
    While health and the riches of nature are theirs.

    "It snows!" sighs the Imbecile, "Ah!" and his breath
    Comes heavy, as clogged with a weight;
    While, from the pale aspect of nature in death,
    He turns to the blaze of his grate;
    And nearer and nearer, his soft-cushioned chair
    Is wheeled toward the life-giving flame;
    He dreads a chill puff of the snow-burdened air,
    Lest it wither his delicate frame;
    Oh! small is the pleasure existence can give,
    When the fear we shall die only proves that we live!

    "It snows!" cries the Traveler, "Ho!" and the word
    Has quickened his steed's lagging pace;
    The wind rushes by, but its howl is unheard,
    Unfelt the sharp drift in his face;
    For bright through the tempest his own home appeared,
    Ay, though leagues intervened, he can see:
    There's the clear, glowing hearth, and the table prepared,
    And his wife with her babes at her knee;
    Blest thought! how it lightens the grief-laden hour,
    That those we love dearest are safe from its power!

    "It snows!" cries the Belle, "Dear, how lucky!" and turns
    From her mirror to watch the flakes fall,
    Like the first rose of summer, her dimpled cheek burns!
    While musing on sleigh ride and ball:
    There are visions of conquests, of splendor, and mirth,
    Floating over each drear winter's day;
    But the tintings of Hope, on this storm-beaten earth,
    Will melt like the snowflakes away.
    Turn, then thee to Heaven, fair maiden, for bliss;
    That world has a pure fount ne'er opened in this.

    "It snows!" cries the Widow, "O God!" and her sighs
    Have stifled the voice of her prayer;
    Its burden ye'll read in her tear-swollen eyes,
    On her cheek sunk with fasting and care.
    'T is night, and her fatherless ask her for bread,
    But "He gives the young ravens their food,"
    And she trusts till her dark hearth adds horror to dread,
    And she lays on her last chip of wood.
    Poor sufferer! that sorrow thy God only knows;
    'T is a most bitter lot to be poor when it snows.

  7. Song of the Shirt

    Thomas Hood

    With fingers weary and worn,
    With eyelids heavy and red,
    A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
    Plying her needle and thread:
    Stitch! stitch! stitch!
    In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
    And still with a voice of dolorous pitch,
    She sang the "Song of the Shirt!"

    "Work! work! work!
    While the cock is crowing aloof!
    And work! work! work!
    Till the stars shine through the roof!
    It is oh to be a slave
    Along with the barbarous Turk,
    Where woman has never a soul to save,
    If this is Christian work!

    "Work! work! work!
    Till the brain begins to swim;
    Work! work! work!
    Till the eyes are heavy and dim!
    Seam, and gusset, and band,
    Band, and gusset, and seam,
    Till over the buttons I fall asleep,
    And sew them on in a dream!

    "O men, with sisters dear!
    O men, with mothers and wives!
    It is not linen you're wearing out,
    But human creatures' lives!
    Stitch! stitch! stitch!
    In poverty, hunger, and dirt,—
    Sewing at once, with a double thread,
    A shroud as well as a shirt.

    "But why do I talk of Death?
    That Phantom of grisly bone,
    I hardly fear his terrible shape,
    It seems so like my own;
    It seems so like my own,
    Because of the fasts I keep;
    O God! that bread should be so dear,
    And flesh and blood so cheap!

    "Work! work! work!
    My labor never flags;
    And what are its wages? A bed of straw,
    A crust of bread—and rags,
    That shattered roof—and this naked floor—
    A table—a broken chair—
    And a wall so blank, my shadow I thank
    For sometimes falling there.

    "Work! work! work!
    From weary chime to chime!
    Work! work! work!
    As prisoners work for crime!
    Band, and gusset, and seam,
    Seam, and gusset, and band,
    Till the heart is sick, and the brain benumbed,
    As well as the weary hand.

    "Work! work! work!
    In the dull December light,
    And work! work! work!
    When the weather is warm and bright;
    While underneath the eaves
    The brooding swallows cling,
    As if to show me their sunny backs,
    And twit me with the spring.

    "Oh but to breathe the breath
    Of the cowslip and primrose sweet!
    With the sky above my head,
    And the grass beneath my feet!
    For only one short hour
    To feel as I used to feel,
    Before I knew the woes of want,
    And the walk that costs a meal!

    "Oh but for one short hour,—
    A respite, however brief!
    No blessed leisure for love or hope,
    But only time for grief!
    A little weeping would ease my heart,
    But in their briny bed
    My tears must stop, for every drop
    Hinders needle and thread."

    With fingers weary and worn,
    With eyelids heavy and red,
    A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
    Plying her needle and thread:
    Stitch! stitch! stitch!
    In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
    And still with a voice of dolorous pitch—
    Would that its tone could reach the rich!
    She sang this "Song of the Shirt."

  8. Is There for Honest Poverty

    by Robert Burns. Also know as "A Man's a Man for A' That"

    Is there for honesty poverty
    That hings his head, an' a' that;
    The coward slave — we pass him by,
    We dare be poor for a' that!
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    Our toils obscure an' a' that,
    The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
    The man's the gowd for a' that.

    What though on hamely fare we dine,
    Wear hoddin grey, an' a' that?
    Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
    A man's a man for a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    Their tinsel show, an' a' that,
    The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
    Is king o' men for a' that.

    Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,
    Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
    Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
    He's but a coof for a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    His ribband, star, an' a' that,
    The man o' independent mind
    He looks an' laughs at a' that.

    A price can mak a belted knight,
    A marquise, duke, an' a' that;
    But an honest man's aboon his might,
    Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    Their dignities an' a' that,
    The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
    Are higher rank than a' that.

    Then let us pray that come it may,
    (As come it will for a' that,)
    That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
    Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
    For a' that, an' a' that,
    That man to man, the world o'er,
    Shall brithers be for a' that.

  9. I Know a Man

    by Annette Wynne

    I know a man who thinks he's poor,
    But he is rich indeed,
    He has a chair, a friend who's sure,
    And three good books to read!