The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Friday and A Paca Fun Farm


Song of the Shirt
By 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's O! 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;
Oh, God! that bread should be so dear.
   And flesh and blood so cheap!

   "Work—work—work!
   My labour never flags;
And what are its wages? A bed of straw,
   A crust of bread—and rags.
That shattered roof—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.

   "O! 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!

   "O! but for one short hour!
   A respite however brief!
No blesseŹd 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!"

--------

I am very happy for everyone who got to go back to work on Thursday and got to visit government services and national parks! I only got to visit the National Zoo's panda cam from my computer, but even that was nice. I had work to get done in the morning because Adam's girlfriend came over after school while he was still at cross country -- we chatted about colleges and her internship on Capitol Hill and stuff -- and tomorrow there is no school for teacher's meetings so we may all go to a park in the afternoon before dinner.

Thursday is a busy TV night until we get sick of some of the shows. We skipped The Crazy Ones to watch the premiere of Reign, which may rival Merlin for historical absurdity except there's not supposed to be magic; we watched Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, whose dialogue Adam mocked with good reason, and Elementary, the only really good show of the bunch (not my favorite episode this week but still way above everything else since Monday night). Some residents of A Paca Fun Farm from last weekend:















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