Posts Tagged ‘Beggars’

The Beggar Boy

May 31, 2012

The Beggar Boy.


I saw a boy, wasted and sad,
With eyes all red and crying;
Three pence was all the tin he had, —
Or else the boy was lying.

His cheeks were pale and ghostly thin,
His breeches they were thinner;
He looked death’s own, when he stept in,
Or else he was a sinner.

HE said his mother long was dead,
His father in the prison pent —
And yet he cooly raised his head
And asked a penny for their rent.

“O ho!” I said, “you want a cent
Upon pretenses frail;
Why pay your buried mother’s rent?
Or father’s locked in jail?”

He sadly bit his pale thin lip,
A tear stole out his eye;
I thought I had him on the hip —
I thought he’d told a lie.

At length he spoke, in quivering tone,
And midst the words he wept; —
“My father soon is coming home,
He’s most worked out his debt.

“And mother, while she starved and died,
On our cold cellar floor,
Would often call us to her side,
And tell us Christ was poor.

“She said that He would give us bread,
That He would take her trust;
When our sick mother should be dead,
And mouldered into dust.

“She said her spirit would not die,
But often with us be,
And often too, we’d feel her nigh,
Though in eternity.

“And since she died,” the pale boy said,
“We’ve found her words were true;
At night we see her by our bed,
Her face of brilliant hue.

“All round our little room she’ll tread,
And stay sometimes till light;
Oh, no! her spirit is not dead,
She’s with us all the night.

“And often when we sob and sigh,
And think we’ll never sleep,
A soft hand wipes the tearful eye —
We feel we must not weep.

“And so dear James and little May,
And I live on alone;
From door to door I beg all day
For bread to carry home.

“And when at times I bring some meat
We save it all the night,
That mother when she comes may eat
Or gladden at the sight.

“And so, kind sir, I asked a cent,”
The faltering boy kept on,
“To help make out our weekly rent,
Till father can come home.

And so the tatter’d boy was right,
The rent was for the dead!
His mother lived with him at night,
Close by her children’s bed.

*   *   *   *   *
Turn not away the stricken poor,
With harsh and chilling air;
Think when they hover round your door,
‘Tis Christ who sends them there.

The Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California) Aug 26, 1854

The Beggar and his Dog

May 6, 2012

Image from the Boston Public Library via flickr

The Beggar and his Dog.


THREE dollars, three, for my dog to pay!
Lightining strike me this moment, I pray!
What can they mean, these tyrant police?
Where will their grinding of poor men cease?

I am a broken, old, weary man,
And earn a penny, I never can;
I have no money, no bread, no dole;
Hunger and want are my portion sole.

And when I sickn’d and fevershook me?
Who pitied me when all else forsook me?
When alone in God’s wide world I stood,
Who was it bore me companionhood?

When my woes were sorest, whose love was unflinching?
Who warm’d my limbs when the forst was pinching?
And when I was hungry and surely, who
Growl’d not, but patiently hunger’d too?

OUr wretched lfie we have both, old friend,
Drain’d to the dregs; it must have an end;
Old and sickly thou’rt grown like me,
I must drown thee, — and this is my thanks to thee!

This is my thanks for thy love unswerving!
‘Tis the way of the world with all deserving,
Though my part in many a fight I have play’d,
‘S death! I am new at the hangman’s trade.

Here is the cord, here it the stone,
There is the water it must be done!
Come hither, poor cur, not a look on me cast,
One push with my foot, and all is past!

As he tied round its neck the fatal band,
The fog fawn’d on him and lick’d his hand;
He tore back the cord in trembling haste,
And round his own neck he bound it fast.

And wildly he utter’d a fearful curse;
And wildly he gathered his latest force,
And he plunged in the flood; white eddies rush’d
Recoiled, chafed, bubbled, and all was hush’d.

In vain sprang the dog to his rescue then,
Howl’d to the ships for the aid of men,
Whining and tugging gathered them round, —
‘Twas the corpse of the beggar was borne,

To the grave in silence the beggar was borne,
With the dog alone to follow and mourn;
And over the turf that wrapped his clay,
The fond brute stretch’d him, and died where he lay!

Hillsdale Whig Standard (Hillsdale, Michigan) Jul 21, 1846

Street Beggars

December 5, 2011

All images from BLUBABALU

Street Beggars.
[New York Herald]

New York, if not the paradise, is certainly the Eldorado of beggars, and certain parts of New York are literally overrun with professionals of both sexes and of all ages. The lower sections of the city are infested with blind men, old merchants, decayed brokers, woe-begone foreigners, and a horde of dirty little wretches, who, under pretense of selling matches, apples, penknives, and neckties, thrive on beggary. The vicinity of the city hall develops a different stratum. Several blind men, whose faces are as well known as that of the city hall clock, stand bareheaded in all kinds of weather, holding in one hand a few lead pencils and in the other a hat, into which they beseech the charitable to throw a few pennies. Respectable looking fellows stand near the entrance to the bridge, and, under pretense of having lost their money, beg a penny from the passers. Slatternly dressed women, with babies in their arms, seek alms near the postoffice and on the pavement of the city hall park. The very poor abound everywhere, and the humbug poor are almost as numerous.

A favorite resort for the latter class is Park place, between Broadway and the station of the Sixth avenue elevated road. Oftentimes something like half a dozen men, women and boys are encountered in that one short block. One persistent beggar, who long since was driven from Wall street, exhibits the stump of his leg, and with most woe-begone expression, solicits aid. Boys playing leap-frog one minute and begging pennies in the next find that sidewalk a particularly lucrative spot. Seedy-looking men have selected that as their beat, and can be found there almost every day and every night. One stalwart fellow, with piteous whine, offers to black belated comers’ boots for the trifling sum of a penny, which offer being declined is followed by a piteous appeal for pecuniary assistance.

A one-legged Alsacian, the great Napoleon, holds ballads in one hand and a hat in the other. Several fellows extend shriveled limbs, horrible sores, and loathsome wounds, this revelation being a trick of their trade, as they well know the benevolent heart associated with a sensitive stomach, will quickly turn away and pay roundly rather than have a second glance of unsightly deformity. A particularly offensive type of beggar is an old woman, hideous in face, dirty in dress, who accosts ladies, and, under the pretense of offering hairpins for sale, thrusts her dirty hand into their faces. If money is given her she accepts it and passes to the next; if it is denied her, or she is told to go away, she opens the sluice-gates of her billings-gate abuse and makes it really difficult for an embarrassed, delicate person to escape her clutches.

One old woman is well known to the habitues of the Twenty-third street bobtail cars as she is to the police. Her little game is to enter a car and suddenly ascertain that she has “but 8 cents” with which to pay her 5-cent fare. She is in no way backward in making her condition known, and it is a very strange care which does not furnish two or three benevolent people who are not only anxious to pay the old lady’s fare, but who slip a dime or a quarter into her willing hand. Another, equally venerable in appearance, has a sad knack of losing her way, and asking how she “shall reach Christopher street ferry” or Hoboken or Brooklyn or some other far-away locality, manifests great surprise and grief at the distance she must go and in a way known to her makes her impecuniousity understood and has her wants relieved.

But these, and such as they are comparatively harmless to the wretches who, in the persons of two or three old hags, wander up and down the street between 4 and 6 o’clock in the summer time, and even later in the fall and winter months, making the avenue really a place of terror to modest, belated women. Their plan is to suddenly accost ladies, and in tones of command demand assistance. If it is given, all right; if it is not, abuse of the most virulent type is heaped upon the offender, who is lucky if she gets away without a push or a haul. On the church steps not far from Seventh avenue sits, and has sat for years past, a weather-beaten blind man, who has the same rubber headed pencils in his hand to-day that he had two years ago. He has been known to receive thirty contributions in the space of an hour. Another man, blind, has a little white dog crouched between his feet, whom he keeps there for hours at a time, while he, extending his palm, solicits contributions for the blind.

On Forty-second street Italian women, with Madonna-like faces and any quantity of cherubs, abound. They have a faculty of throwing into their eyes a most mournful expression, and in broken English ask for good American money. The favorite game there, however, is a pretense of a loss of money, although the aged-clergyman racket is also worked with great success. The jolly sailor, who was familiar to the riders in Broadway stages five or six years ago, turned up in Forty-second street depot last week, and received a contribution toward his winter expenses from old customers and from strangers that must have delighted the innermost cockle of his heart. It was irresistibly comical to watch his repulse of criticism from people who knew him and his story as well as he knew it himself.

The police say that some of the men who hang around the Third avenue and Forty-second street station and work the beat between that point and Fifth avenue are most adroit simulators. They are blind to-day, crippled to-morrow, respectable clergymen the next day, and honest men who have “lost their pocket-book” before the end of the week.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Dec 23, 1884

Beg, Beggars, Beggary

February 26, 2009

Sympathy by Frederick Judd Waugh

Sympathy by Frederick Judd Waugh

The pictures I’ve used don’t go with the poems exactly, but have the same theme.


I stood by a desk in my little store,
Turning the leaves of a volume o’er,
Now of a monarch, reading slowly–
Then of a God-man, far more lowly,
Of whom the olden records say,
He knew not where his head to lay.

I turned from that sacred book of yore,
As a shadow darkened that small glass door,
A shadow–but scarce more frail than she
Who lifted her pitiful eyes to me,
And, trembling, against the county bent,
She wept, and begged for a single cent.

Her cheek was white, and lean, and high,
And little lustre was in her eye;
Though from its glances a wildness shot,
That told of pleasures she now had not,
And as a silent suppliant, she
Stretched forth her pallid hand to me.

I read on her wasted face the tale
That has made a thousand spirits quail.
O! I would willingly hear my knell,
Wee there no more such tales to tell.
Cursed be the want and woe that lent
Such value to a coveted cent!

The woman–oh! thin and young she was–
Shook like a blade of wind-stricken grass,
And hectically she blushed to know
That a world was witness to her woe;
But with that hectic flush, a sigh
Showed that death to her heart was nigh.

She paused a moment beside the door,
Until the throe of her pain was o’er,
And I, into her open palms,
Had dropped a poor man’s meagre alms;
And then she prayed on my soul might fall
That Father’s blessing who gives us all.

The shadow glided across the door,
And vanished slowly, to come no more.
May God preserve thee, deserted thing!
Thy sorrow my heart is harrowing.
It was so mournful to see thee bent
In supplication for a cent!

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Mar 22, 1852

The Beggars' Breakfast by Jean Geoffrey

The Beggars' Breakfast by Jean Geoffrey


He sits by the great high road all day —
The beggar blind and old,
The locks on his brow are thin and grey,
And his lips are blue and cold;
The life of the beggar is almost spent,
His cheek is pale and his form is bent,
And he answereth low and with meek content,
The sneers of the rude and bold.

All day, by the road, hath the beggar sat,
Weary, and faint, and dry —
In silence, patiently holding his hat,
And turning his sightless eye,
As, with cruel jest and greeting grim,
At his hollow cheek and eye-ball dim,
The traveller tosses a cent at him,
And passeth hastily by.

To himself the blind old man doth hum
A song of his boyhood day,
And his lean, white fingers idly drum
On his thread bare knee where they lay;
And oft, when the gay bob-o’link is heard
The song of the youth-hearted yellow bird,
The jar of life, and the traveller’s word,
And the shout of children’s play;

He starts and grasps with a hurried hand
The top of his smooth-worn cane,
And striking it sturdily into the sand —
Then layeth it down again!
While his black little spaniel, beautiful Spring,
That he keeps at his button-hole with a string,
Leaps up, and his bell goes tink-a-ling ling;
As he yelps with impatient pain.

Then he counteth his gains with quiet heed,
As the few through his fingers slide,
He knows is scarcely enough to feed
The beautiful dog by his side;
So he holdeth his hat and waiteth still,
Though the day is worn and the night is chill,
With patient hope his hand to fill
From the offals of pomp and pride.

He sites by the great high road all day;
That beggar blind and old,
The locks on his brow are thin and grey,
And his lips are blue and cold;
Yet he murmureth never, day nor night;
But seeing the world by its inner sight,
He patiently waits with a heart all light,
Till the sum of his life shall be told.

Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Feb 7, 1842

Misery by Fernando Pelez

Misery by Fernando Pelez


“Stay, lady stay, and list awhile,
A poor and beggar boy am I;
Bereft of pity’s beaming smile,
And sunk in woe and misery.

“There was a time, when on the couch
Of ease, I tun’d to notes of joy;
But now (save scorn, and keen reproach,)
There’s nothing left the beggar boy.

“Once I could boast of parents, friends;
E’en maidens’ love I once possess’d;
But now no pitying hand extends
Its help, to sooth my aching breast.

“There was a time — alas! ’tis gone
When fortune, FICKLE fortune smil’d;
Enwrapt in joy I journey’d on,
And was pronounc’d her fav’rite child.

“But like the transient meteor’s light,
That sporting fleets along the sky,
But quickly fading from the sight,
Deceives the wandering gazer’s eye.

“So sportive fortune woke to me,
And wrapt me in delusive joy,
SHE FLED — and meagre poverty,
Was all she left the beggar boy!”


Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jan 26, 1825

If you like these, I also posted a couple of poems about ORPHANS that  are similar in theme.