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Child Labor

From The Topeka State Journal, September 19, 1913. By Dr. Henry Van Dyke.

Ah, who are these on whom the vital bloom
    Of life has withered to the dust of doom?
These little pilgrims, prematurely worn
    And bent as if they bore the weight of years?
These childish faces, pallid and forlorn,
    Too dull for laughter and too hard for tears?
Is this the ghost of that insane crusade
    That led ten thousand children long ago,
A flock of innocents, deceived, betrayed,
    Yet pressing on through want and woe
To meet their fate, faithful and unafraid?
    Nay, for a million children now
Are marching in the long, pathetic line,
    With weary step and early wrinkled brow;
And at their head appears no holy sign
    Of hope in heaven; for unto them is given
No cross to carry, but a cross to drag.
    Before their strength is ripe they bear
The load of labor, toiling underground
    In dangerous mines, and breathing heavy air
Of crowded shops; their tender lives are bound
    To service of the whirling, clattering wheels
That fill the factories with dust and noise;
    They are not girls and boys,
But little “hands,” who blindly, dumbly feed
    With their own blood the hungry god of Greed.

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