Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE FACTORY TOWN, by ERNEST CHARLES JONES

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THE FACTORY TOWN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The night had sunk along the city
Last Line: And the generations die.
Subject(s): Industrial Revolution

The night had sunk along the city,
It was a bleak and cheerless hour;
The wild winds sang their solemn ditty
To cold grey wall and blackened tower.

The factories gave forth lurid fires
From pent-up hells within their breast;
E'en Etna's burning wrath expires,
But man's volcanoes never rest.

Women, children, men were toiling,
Locked in dungeons close and black,
Life's fast-failing thread uncoiling
Round the wheel, the modern rack!

E'en the very stars seemed troubled
With the mingled fume and roar;
The city like a cauldron bubbled,
With its poison boiling o'er.

For the reeking walls environ
Mingled groups of death and life:
Fellow-workmen, flesh and iron,
Side by side in deadly strife.

There, amid the wheels' dull droning
And the heavy, choking air,
Strength's repining, labour's groaning,
And the throttling of despair, --

With the dust around them whirling,
And the white, cracked, fevered lips,
And the shuttle's ceaseless twirling,
And the short life's toil eclipse --

Stood half-naked infants shivering
With heart-frost amid the heat;
Manhood's shrunken sinews quivering
To the engine's horrid beat!

Woman's aching heart was throbbing
With her wasting children's pain,
While red Mammon's hand was robbing
God's thought-treasure from their brain!

Yet their lord bids proudly wander
Stranger eyes thro' factory scenes;
'Here are men, and engines yonder.'
'I see nothing but machines!'

Hark! amid that bloodless slaughter
Comes the wailing of despair:
'Oh! for but one drop of water!
'Oh! for but one breath of air!

'One fresh touch of dewy grasses,
'Just to cool this shrivelled hand!
'Just to catch one breeze that passes
'From some shady forest land.'

No! though 'twas a night of summer
With a scent of new mown hay
From where the moon, the fairies' mummer,
On distant fields enchanted lay!

On the lealands slept the cattle,
Freshness through the forest ran --
While, in Mammon's mighty battle,
Man was immolating man!

While the rich, with power unstable,
Crushed the pauper's heart of pain,
As though those rich were heirs of Abel,
And the poor the sons of Cain.

While the proud from drowsy riot,
Staggered past his church unknown,
Where his God, in the great quiet,
Preached the livelong night alone!

While the bloated trader passes,
Lord of loom and lord of mill;
On his pathway rush the masses,
Crushed beneath his stubborn will.

Eager slaves, a willing heriot,
O'er their brethren's living road
Drive him in his golden chariot,
Quickened by his golden goad.

Young forms -- with their pulses stifled,
Young heads -- with the eldered brain,
Young hearts -- of their spirit rifled,
Young lives -- sacrificed in vain:

There they lie -- the withered corses,
With not one regretful thought,
Trampled by thy fierce steam-horses,
England's mighty Juggernaut!

Over all the solemn heaven
Arches, like a God's reproof
At the offerings man has driven
To Hell's altars, loom and woof!

Hear ye not the secret sighing?
And the tear drop thro' the night?
See ye not a nation dying
For want of rest, and air, and light?

Perishing for want of Nature!
Crowded in the stifling town --
Dwarfed in brain and shrunk in stature --
Generations growing down!

Thinner wanes the rural village,
Smokier lies the fallow plain --
Shrinks the cornfields' pleasant tillage,
Fades the orchard's rich domain;

And a banished population
Festers in the fetid street: --
Give us, God, to save our nation,
Less of cotton, more of wheat.

Take us back to lea and wild wood,
Back to nature and to Thee!
To the child restore his childhood --
To the man his dignity!

Lo! the night hangs o'er the city,
And the hours in fever fly,
And the wild winds sing their ditty,
And the generations die.

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