OR, A PEEP INTO A PRISON
By Hannah More
Look through the land from north to south,
And look from east to west,
And see what is to Englishmen
Of life the deadliest pest.
It is not want, though that is bad;
Nor war, though that is worse;
But Britons brave endure, alas!
A self-inflicted curse.
Go where you will, throughout the realm
You’ll find the reigning sin,
In cities, villages, and towns,
—The monster’s name is Gin.
The prince of darkness never sent
To man a deadlier foe;
“My name is Legion,” it may say,
The source of many a wo.
Nor does the fiend alone deprive
The laborer of his wealth;
That is not all; it murders too
His honest name and health.
We say the times are grievous hard,
And hard they are, ’tis true;
But, drunkards, to your wives and babes
They’re harder made by you.
The drunkard’s tax is self-imposed,
Like every other sin;
The taxes altogether lay
No weight so great as gin.
The state compels no man to drink,
Compels no man to game;
‘Tis gin and gambling sink him down
To rags, and want, and shame.
The kindest husband, changed by gin
Is for a tyrant known;
The tenderest heart that nature made,
Becomes a heart of stone.
In many a house the harmless babes
Are poorly clothed and fed,
Because the craving gin-shop takes
The children’s daily bread.
Come, neighbor, take a walk with me,
Through many a London street,
And see the cause of penury
In hundreds we shall meet.
We shall not need to travel far—
Behold that great man’s door;
He well discerns yon idle crew
From the deserving poor.
He will relieve with liberal hand
The child of honest thrift;
But where long scores at gin-shops stand,
He will withhold his gift.
Behold that shivering female there,
Who plies her woful trade!
’Tis ten to one you’ll find that gin
That hopeless wretch has made.
Look down those steps, and view below
Yon cellar under ground;
There every want, and every wo,
And every sin is found.
Those little wretches, trembling there
With hunger and with cold,
Were, by their parents’ love of gin,
To sin and misery sold.
Blessed be those friends to human kind
Who take these wretches up,
Ere they have drunk the bitter dregs
Of their sad parents’ cup.
Look through that prison’s iron bars,
Look through that dismal grate,
And learn what dire misfortune brought
So terrible a fate.
The debtor and the felon too,
Though differing much in sin,
Too oft you’ll find were thither brought
By all-destroying gin.
Yet Heaven forbid I should confound
Calamity with guilt!
Or name the debtor’s lesser fault
With blood of brother spilt.
To prison dire misfortune oft
The guiltless debtor brings;
Yet oftener far it will be found
From gin the misery springs.
See the pale manufacturer there,
How lank and lean he lies!
How haggard is his sickly cheek!
How dim his hollow eyes!
He plied the loom with good success;
His wages still were high;
Twice what the village laborer gains,
His master did supply.
No book-debts kept him from his cash,
All paid as soon as due;
His wages on the Saturday
To fail he never knew.
How amply had his gains sufficed,
On wife and children spent!
But all must for his pleasures go;
All to the gin-shop went.
See that apprentice, young in years,
But hackneyed long in sin;
What made him rob his master’s till?
Alas! ’twas love of gin.
That serving-man—I knew him once,
So jaunty, spruce, and smart!
Why did he steal, then pawn the plate?
’Twas gin ensnared his heart.
But, hark! what dismal sound was that?
’Tis Saint Sepulchre’s bell!
It tolls, alas, for human guilt,
Some malefactor’s knell.
O! woful sound! O! what could cause
Such punishment and sin?
Hark! hear his words; he owns the cause—
Bad company and gin.
And when the future lot is fixed,
Of darkness, fire, and chains,
How can the drunkard hope to ’scape
Those everlasting pains?
For if the murderer’s doomed to wo,
As holy writ declares,
The drunkard with self-murderers
That dreadful portion shares.