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The Mill-Child's Last Dream.*
What time the mill-room's dusty gloom
Was fleck'd with sunset's yellow bars, She lean'd against the noisy loom
That thrill'd her with its ceaseless jars: A childish form and childish face,
Whereon the purpling twilight play'd,
A lustrous limning softly made,
And crown'd with gold her loosen'd hair, And trimm'd her russet robe with fringe
More royal than a queen might wear.
To wintry evening's welcome bound, Her childhood's trembling fleece was drawn
Through Toil's unvarying spindle-round : A dreary web of weary hours,
A dizzy whirl of noisy days, With here and there some wayside-flowers,
And here and there some Sabbath lays. Of little worth in worldly count,
Of little space in human scan; A fraction in that large amount
Of matter, merchandise, and-man.
Beneath the drone of belt and shaft,
And 'wildering whir of tireless wheels, The child had plied her simple craft
All day among the mazy reels.
* In the terrible catastrophe of the Pemberton Mills, in Laurence, Massachusetts, six hundred operatives were involved in the fall of the buildings, and nearly twothirds of the number killed or maimed. One young girl of ten years had fallen asleep at her loom, and was afterwards discovered to be alive among the ruins, wedged in by the machinery in such a manner as to defy extrication. She lingered several hours, and was heard singing with her last breath some simple Sabbath melodies.
v. With roses red and lilies white,
All sweetly paved as gardens be ; And arch'd above with sapphire light,
And wanton'd o'er by breezes free ! And all the mill-girls singing were,
And all the children weaving flowers; And, oh ! no overseer was there,
And none kept time-book of the hours ! The mill-girls sang with voices clear,
With cadence sweet and tender swell, As if 'ıwere Sunday all the year,
And every one forgot—the BELL!
With shivering pause and quivering clang As if through all the shuddering mill
Some tortur'd engine roared and rang. That iron BELL !—God help us all !-
No more 'twill wake the slumbering child : A harsher tongue, an angrier call,
Alarmed her soul with terrors wild ;
With sudden swirl from roof to base,
And violent throes through wall and beam, The huge mill, surging from its place,
Sank earthward-crumbling like her dream !
And all its wealth of woven rolls,
And—twice three hundred human souls !
Destruction's shuttles fiercely sped,
The warp of Quick, the woof of Dead !
Insured ! 0 World, the Gain record ! Man reckoneth for his shattered dross ;
But who for these dumb souls, O Lord ?
Great wrecks of ponderous spinning-gear,
Of ruin'd wealth a wildering store ! And underneath,- stony bier !
What woful weight of death it bore ! Poor rent and mangled human shreds,
And tattered folds of heart and brain; Poor tangled skeins of mortal threads,
New-woven in webs of fiery pain; For up and down crept serpent-flames,
Among those deepening prison-glooms, And trailed around the iron frames,
And coiled above the blood-stained looms !
I hear thy small voice rippling low,
Like murmuring brooklet's liquid flow. In fiery clasp of martyr's doom,
She heard the throstles, whistling still, And saw the sunset's purple bloom
Slant downward through the dusky mill; But all below like churchyard seemed,
With long green grasses thickly spread; And underneath the turf (she dreamed)
Were lilies white and roses red.
And hands uplifted from the blaze,
And sang the hymns of Sabbath days: Till all the dreadful world of pain
Seem'd brooded o'er by tenderest balm, And dove-like pinions fanned her brain,
And whispering voices joined her psalm; For all the mill-girls singing were,
And all the children weaving flowers, And Heaven was shimmering through the air,
Where-none kept time-book of the hours!
O busy Hands! O weary Feet !
O Eyes ! consumed by daily tears ! O Heart of Toil! I hear thy beat
Through all the immemorial years. For strangers' bread, in strangers' band,
O Giant Slave! thou grindest still:
A blinded Samson of the Mill!
Still crush'd and slain with murderous walls, Still scorn'd by Dagon's priests,-behold !-
The Christian to the Hebrew calls !
Lying on my back under one of the magnificent old trees in Windsor Park on a sultry day in June, giving myself up to the thousand peaceful influences of the chequered shade above me, the clear sky in the distance, the soft air, the blessed stillness broken but by the bird's song,—lying here supine, indolent, happy, I thought that I could write an essay on "Summer Days," and straightway fell a thinking over my subject and its tone, and arranging in my own mind its composition and treatment. So many pleasant memories of bygone times rose before me during these cogitations, that I began to feel I was progressing satisfactorily, and to hope that I might perhaps be enabled to convey to the readers of Temple Bar some portion of my own enjoyment. The subject seemed to me one on which I might gossip in a desultory manner, and the tone of which, though necessarily somewhat egotistical, must, from its nature, be broad and healthy, affording little opportunity for the exhibition of that twopenny cynicism and petty whining jealousy, which, as I think, we are most of us now-adays too apt to ape, and which crops out like a foul weed in the pretty sparkling parterre of our periodical literature.
So during the remainder of that glorious day-my two dear companions knowing my love of silence in the country, and kindly humoring my fancy—I was chewing the cud of my thought, and revolving in my mind how best I could express my feelings. No place could have been more favourable for such rumination: the majestic avenues of the Park stretching far away, and crowned in the distance by the gray stern old Castle; "the innumerable ear and tail" of the deer “twinkling" in the luxuriant fern; farther on the placid, broad Virginia Water, bordered by a velvety lawn, inviting more repose and limb-stretching; the solemn quiet, the stillness that could be felt,—all helped me in my purpose. Dining in a hot room of the “White Hart” at Windsor, though grateful, was perhaps a little antagonistic to my sentimental state; but there must have been revivifying influence in the ice-bound fire of the sparkling Moselle, as I mounted my “Summer Days” hobby again immediately on entering the train, and rode it all the way to town.
But before I went to bed that night, I took from a little book-case placed handy to my easy chair, and filled only with special favourites,read and re-read, opening at well-remembered passages, pencil-scored and worn,-a volume of Essays, written by one whom I am so happy as to call my friend; and in the second series of the Recreations of that Country Parson, whose charming writings are so well known to and so loved by all who appreciate a rare combination of talent and simplicity, of healthy judgment and elegant taste,-in this volume I found an article, the substance of which I knew, though I had forgotten its title, headed “Concerning Summer Days.”