An Autumn Reverie

Alas! Beautiful Summer now hath fled,
And the face of Nature doth seem dead,
And the leaves are withered, and falling off the trees,
By the nipping and chilling autumnal breeze.

The pleasures of the little birds are all fled,
And with the cold many of them will be found dead,
Because the leaves of the trees are scattered in the blast,
And makes the feathered creatures feel downcast.

Because there are no leaves on the trees to shield them from the storm
On a windy, and rainy, cloudy morn;
Which makes their little hearts throb with pain,
By the chilling blast and the pitiless rain.

But still they are more contented than the children of God,
As long as they can pick up a worm from the sod,
Or anything they can get to eat,
Just, for instance, a stale crust of bread or a grain of wheat.

Oh! Think of the little birds in the time of the snow,
Also of the little street waifs, that are driven to and fro,
And trembling in the cold blast, and chilled to the bone,
For the want of food and clothing, and a warm home.

Besides think of the sorrows of the wandering poor,
That are wandering in the cold blast from door to door;
And begging, for Heaven’s sake, a crust of bread,
And alas! Not knowing where to lay their head.

While the rich are well fed and covered from the cold,
While the poor are starving, both young and old;
Alas! It is the case in this boasted Christian land,
Where as the rich are told to be kind to the poor, is God’s command.

Oh! Think of the working man when he’s no work to do,
Who’s got a wife and family, perhaps four or two,
And the father searching for work, and no work can be had,
The thought, I’m sure, ’tis enough to drive the poor man mad.

Because for his wife and family he must feel,
And perhaps the thought thereof will cause him to steal
Bread for his family, that are starving at home,
While the thought thereof makes him sigh heavily and groan.

Alas! The pangs of hunger are very hard to hide,
And few people can their temper control,
Or become reconciled to their fate,
Especially when they cannot find anything to eat.

Oh! Think of the struggles of the poor to make a living,
Because the rich unto them seldom are giving;
Whereas they are told he that giveth to the poor lendeth unto the Lord,
But alas! they rather incline their money to hoard.

Then there’s the little news-vendors in the street,
Running about perhaps with bare feet;
And if the rich chance to see such creatures in the street,
In general they make a sudden retreat.

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Comments (5) »

  1. A
    In the year 2016, on the 11th day of October at 1:05 am

    Literally dying of laughter right now. Absolutely priceless.

  2. In the year 2018, on the 20th day of April at 12:26 pm

    I find this stanza particularly interesting in this piece.

    Alas! The pangs of hunger are very hard to hide,
    And few people can their temper control,
    Or become reconciled to their fate,
    Especially when they cannot find anything to eat.

    Although it expresses the classic McGonegall sentiments, in mostly classical McGonegall style, it lacks what is usually omnipresent in his works.


    The poet, who admittedly treats most of the conventions of poetry with an indifferent hand, has always attempted to be scrupulous in the matter of rhyme. He is not always successful, admittedly, but the effort is there, the desire to make Word A sound like Word B at the finish.

    But this time, he seems to cast this nicety to the wind, focusing on his message– That when starving in the midst of plenty, proper Victorian Morality may well be tossed to the wind and (almost) rightly so. He shows a sympathy not merely for the poor, but the fact that sometimes they didn’t have any motivation to restrain their natural desire to feed themselves and their family by any means necessary.

    Thus, not even the attempt to rhyme is present. It reads less like the usual Victorian verse– well, even less than the usual for McGonegall– and more like modern “free verse”, or perhaps a Japanese quatrain.

    I’ll be honest, for once I am touched by McGonegall, instead of wondering if he were “touched” instead.

  3. Jeremy Salkeld
    In the year 2018, on the 25th day of April at 11:07 am

    Ah, but Mr. Haynie, you forget the verse with that most immortal couplet from ‘The Great Yellow River Inundation in China’:

    The river burst its embankments suddenly at dead of night,
    And the rushing torrent swept all before it left and right;
    All over the province of Honan, which for its fertility,
    Is commonly called by historians, the garden of China.

    Here McGonagall sets no precedent in the former half of the stanza for the non-rhyming couplet in the latter, and in doing so perfectly encapsulates the jarring nature of the flood, which is such that even recorded history itself shudders.

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