Hunger and Cold

Hunger and Cold  (1843) 
by James Russell Lowell

Sisters two, all praise to you,
With your faces pinched and blue;
To the poor man you've been true
    From of old:
You can speak the keenest word,
You are sure of being heard,
From the point you're never stirred,
    Hunger and Cold!

Let sleek statesmen temporize;
Palsied are their shifts and lies
When they meet your bloodshot eyes,
    Grim and bold;
Policy you set at naught,
In their traps you'll not be caught,
You're too honest to be bought,
    Hunger and Cold!

Bold and bar the palace door;
While the mass of men are poor,
Naked truth grows more and more
You had never yet, I guess,
Any praise for bashfulness,
You can visit sans court-dress,
    Hunger and Cold!

While the music fell and rose,
And the dance reeled to its close,
Where her round of costly woes
    Fashion strolled,
I beheld with shuddering fear
Wolves' eyes through the windows peer;
Little dream they you are near,
    Hunger and Cold!

When the toiler's heart you clutch,
Conscience is not valued much,
He recks not a blood smutch
    On his gold:
Everything to you defers,
You are potent reasoners,
At your whisper Treason stirs,
    Hunger and Cold!

Rude companions you draw.
Words refuse to sate your maw,
Your gaunt limbs the cobweb law
    Cannot hold:
You're not clogged with foolish pride,
But can seize a right denied:
Somehow God is on your side,
    Hunger and Cold!

You respect no hoary wrong
More for having triumphed long;
Its past victims, haggard throng
    From the mould
You unbury: swards and spears
Weaker are than poor men's tears,
Weaker than your silent years,
    Hunger and Cold!

Let them guard both hall and bower;
Through the window you will glower,
Patient till your reckoning hour
    Shall be tolled;
Cheeks are pale, but hands are red,
Guiltless blood may chance be shed,
But yet must and will be fed,
    Hunger and Cold!

God has plans man must not spoil,
Some were made to starve and toil,
Some to share the wine and oil,
     We are told:
Devil's theories are these,
Stifling hope and love and peace,
Framed your hideous lusts to please,
     Hunger and Cold!

Scatter ashes on thy head,
Tears of burning sorrow shed,
Earth! and be by Pity led
     To Love's fold;
Ere they block the very door
With lean corpses of the poor,
And will hush for naught but gore,
     Hunger and Cold!