The following protest poem appeared on p. 14 of the 26 March 1864 Fun. Although much of the poem describes the lives of street sweeping boys, the third stanza makes clear this poem is protesting the treatment of chimney sweeps — a cause that Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies brought to light when it appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine in 1862. The text was transcribed from page images made available online by the Suzy Covey Comic Book Collection in the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. — George P. Landow]

Ploding along in the early morn.
     Weary end stiff before the day,
They go, devil’s brats, untimely born,
     Who labour before they have learned to play.
                                          ’Weep! Sweep!

While white babe sleep,
These ragged and black to their travail creep;
     Who careth for such as they?

Children of prostitutes, born in sin,
     Sold into slavery, body and soul;
Swathed in rags and sidled on gin,
     The gutter their cradle, the street:. their school.
                                          ’Weep! Sweep!

’Twere better to sleep
In eternal death, than life to keep
     In hopeless, endless dole.

Little limbs begrimed with dirt,
     Bruised and bleeding from top to toe;
Brine the plaster for every hurt,
     The sole reward for their toil—a blow.
                                          ’Weep! Sweep!

The flue is steep.
The dark and hot as tley upward creep.
     But they no rest must know.

Kinder is death than the heart of man,
     He comes to the little ones sorely pressed.
And touching their lips with his finger wan,
     He speeds them home to the longed for rest.
                                          ’Weep! Sweep!

The sleep is deep:
'Twill last till the dawn of eternity peep
     Above the mountain’s's crest.

Mothers of England, your’s the crime,
     That gives to these infants a life accursed;
'Tis you who must, in the coming time,
     The hideous chain cf their slavery burst,
                                          ’Weep! Sweep!

Your babies leap
In arms that from every pain would keep,
     But these no love hath nursed.


Last modified 28 February 2016