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Poem by Ebenezer Elliott
THE DAY was fair, the cannon roared, Cold blew the bracing north, And Preston’s Mills, by thousands, poured Their little captives forth. All in their best they paced the street, All glad that they were free; And sung a song with voices sweet,— They sung of Liberty! But from their lips the rose had fled, Like “death-in-life” they smiled; And still, as each passed by, I said, Alas! is that a child? Flags waved, and men—a ghastly crew— Marched with them, side by side: While hand in hand, and two by two, They moved,—a living tide. Thousands and thousands,—all so white!— With eyes so glazed and dull! O God! it was indeed a sight Too sadly beautiful! And O, the pang their voices gave Refuses to depart! This is a wailing for the grave, I whispered to my heart! It was as if, where roses blushed, A sudden blasting gale O’er fields of bloom had rudely rushed, And turned the roses pale. It was as if in glen and grove The wild birds sadly sung; And every linnet mourned its love, And every thrush its young. It was as if in dungeon gloom, Where chained despair reclined, A sound came from the living tomb, And hymned the passing wind. And while they sang, and though they smiled, My soul groaned heavily,— O, who would be or have a child? A mother who would be?
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