Feed My Sheep.
Awake from your indolent slumbers,
And your breath to a life-pulse quicken;
Awake, if ye’ve hearts in your bosoms,
Or souls that with woe may be stricken:
Awake! for God’s trumpet is calling
The men of the earth to his standard:
He goes forth to succour the falling,
And seek for the lost and the wandered.
Are ye blind with the smoke of the city?
Is wealth, then, your only care?
Has gold cased your heart from all pity?
Are ye deaf to the voice of despair?
Oh, the air that around you is beating —
The very last wave of your breath —
Is thick with the cry and the wailing
Of shame that is darker than death.
The sin-nurtured children of sorrow,
With broken words lisping the thought,
Are cursing their life at its dawning,
So deeply with woe it is fraught:
They are swarming the streets and the alleys,
Uncared-for, unloved, and untaught.
Are ye idle, ye wealthy and listless?
Oh, work may be found if ’tis sought:
Unblest by the home-love that hallows,
Of God whom they know not unfearing,
Their course is straight on to the gallows,
Up steps that their own crime is rearing.
Oh, look in the young children’s faces,
Deep-furrowed with thought and with guile;
They know not a mother’s embraces,
Nor the light of a father’s smile:
They call not for censure, but pity,
And your heart’s most lenient love;
Your children, were they left as these are,
Be sure, in the same paths would rove.
The loud laugh of the fallen woman
Arises to God thro’ the air:—
She, too, is immortal and human,
Could ye see through that surface-bold stare.
Oh, her soul shrinketh back in its sorrow,
And its terrible utterance of woe,
A voice in that wild laugh doth borrow,
Whose bitterness none can know.
The heart-wail of the weeping mother,
Her children starving for food,
Drawing closer the rags far too scanty to cover
The forms of her famishing brood:
And the groans of the father and husband who finds
His strong hand as helpless as tho’ it were frail,
That God’s curse, “thou shalt work,” is blessing to that
Which man doth pronounce, “of work thou shalt fail.”
There are dens in your cities, Australians,
The wild beasts would never inhabit;
But your people have learned to endure them,
AND WISH FOR NO BETTER THRO’ HABIT.
They foster and pamper diseases,
Invite and encourage all vices,
And our statesmen say, wrinkling their eyebrows,
“They’re the best we can get for the prices.”
And shall it be thus, and we idle?
By all that is noble and true,
By the holy promptings within us,
We will rise, and will go forth to do;
And we call on the weak and the mighty,
On the high and the lowly we call;
We call thro’ the breadth of the city, —
“Come, come, there is labor for all.”
We need the pen of the writer,
We need the voice of the strong,
We need the hand of the worker,
And we need them steady and long:
We ask from the gentle woman
Her loving and womanly aid;
From the strong man we ask his power;
From the rich that some wealth may be paid
To the cause of the Great Wealth Giver,
Whose children are fainting for bread;
And we say to the weak and the lowly,
Whose hearts have silently bled —
While impotent seemeth their feeling,
Bound firm by Poverty’s fetter —
That a kindly smile and a gentle word
Are oft, in God’s thinking, far better
Than a careless coin from a heavy purse,
Or a careless word from a ready pen, —
And riches and talent may often do worse
Than a friendly word from the poorest of men.
We must take the poor young children,
And smile off the frown from their eyes,
And teach them to live for a purpose,
From sin and from shame to rise.
We must take the fallen woman,
And teach her to hope and pray,
To feel there is still a retrieval —
That her night may be followed by day.
We must give to the homeless a dwelling,
Find labor for those that can work,
Give food to the helpless and starving,
Drive sins from the dens where they lurk,
And the light of the day shall destroy them,
As the breath of God’s fruitful air
Doth wither the corpse to ashes,
If brought from its dim grave-lair.
Awake! the miasma of crime
Is spreading thro’ alley and lane,
And Misery floateth her banner,
Enstrengthening crime in her reign!
Awake! for God’s trumpet is calling
The men o f the earth to His standard;
He goes forth to raise up the fallen,
And bring back the lost and the wandered.
Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, , pages 59-62
hallow = to consecrate, make, or set apart something as holy; to greatly respect, revere, or venerate
miasma = an unwholesome, corrupting, or foreboding atmosphere (can also refer to pollution or noxious vapours in the air)
[Editor: Corrected “But the groans” to “And the groans”, with regard to the “Errata” corrections.]