I originally ran across this poem in a paper dated about the 1840′s, but when I went back to find it again, I couldn’t. I then stumbled across this earlier version, and had to laugh at the f/s usage. I have seen old census records with hand-written versions of this, but was surprised to see it type-written. If you would like to see more information on the old-style handwriting, here is a great link with several examples.
To make the poem easier to read, I have transcribed it using the modern “S.”
THE ORPHAN’S PRAYER.
THE frozen streets in moonshine glitter,
The midnight hour has long been past,
Ah me! the wind blows keen and bitter,
I sink beneath the piercing blast.
In ev’ry vein seems life to languish,
Their weight my limbs no more can bear,
But no one sooths the Orphan’s anguish,
And no one hears the Orphan’s pray’r.
Hark! hark! for sure some foot-step’s near me,
Advancing, press the drifted snow,
I die for food; oh! stranger, hear me,
I die for food; some alms bestow;
You see no guilty wretch implore you,
No wanton kneels in feign’d despair,
A famished Orphan kneels before you,
Oh grant the famished Orphan’s pray’r.
Perhaps you think my lips dissembling,
Of virtuous sorrows feign a tale,
Then mark my frame with anguish trembling,
My hollow eyes and features pale,
E’en should my story prove ideal,
Too well these wasted limbs declare,
My wants at least are not unreal,
Then stranger grant the Orphan’s pray’r.
He’s gone, no mercy man will show me,
In prayers no more I’ll waste my breath,
Here on the frozen earth I’ll throw me,
And wait, in mute despair for death,
Farewell thou cruel world, to-morrow,
No more scorn my heart will tear,
The grave will shield the child of sorrow,
And heaven will hear the Orphan’s pray’r.
But thou proud man, the beggar scorning,
Unmov’d thou saw’st me kneel for bread,
Thy heart shall ache to hear at morning,
That morning found the beggar dead,
And when the room resounds with laughter,
My famish’d cry thy mirth shall scare,
And often shall thou wish hereafter,
Thou hadst not scorn’d the Orphan’s pray’r.
The Centinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jan 1, 1806
Here is another orphan poem; it is really sad!
From an English Paper.
THE HERO’S ORPHAN GIRLS.
Oh! lady, buy these budding flowers,
For I am cold, and wet, and weary;
I gathered them ere break of day,
When all was lonely, still and dreary;
And long have sought to sell the here,
To purchase clothes, and food and dwelling,
For Valor’s wretched Orphan Girls –
Poor me, and my young sister Ellen.
Ah! those who tread life’s thornless way,
In Fortune’s golden sunshine basking,
May deem that Misery want not aid,
Because her lips are mute — unasking;
They pass along — and if they gaze,
‘Tis with an eye of hope repelling –
Yet once a crowd of flatterers fawned,
And fortune smiled on me and Ellen.
O! buy my flowers, they’re fair and fresh
As mine & morning’s tears could keep them;
To-morrow’s sun will view them dead,
And I shall scarcely live to weep them!
Yet this sweet bud, if nursed with care,
Soon into fulness would be swelling –
And, nurtured by some generous hand,
So might my little sister Ellen.
She sleeps within a hollow tree,
Her only home — the leaves her bedding;
And I’ve no food to carry there
To sooth the tears she will be shedding;
Oh! that those mourners’ gushing griefs –
The pastor’s prayer, & bell’s sad knelling,
And that deep grave — were meant for me
And my poor little sister Ellen!
When we in silence are laid down
In life’s last fearless, deathless sleeping,
No tears will dew our humble grave,
Save those of pitying heaven’s own weeping.
Unknown we live, unknown must die,
No tongue the mournful tale be telling
Of two young, broken hearted girls,
Poor Mary and her sister Ellen!
No one has bought of me to-day,
And night winds now are sadly sighing;
And I, like these poor drooping flowers,
Unnoticed and unwept, am dying!
My soul is struggling to be free –
It loathes its wretched earthly dwelling –
My limbs refuse to bear their load –
Oh! God, protect lone orphan Ellen!
Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Apr 9, 1823