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To seek his dwelling; nay, more, who dares
To brave the dangers by fiord and fen.
By sea and land, by mountain and river
That compass it round, for his noble endeavour
Shall dwell 'mid the Ases in glory for ever
                                     In the holy city of Asgard.

And thus it was on that glad May-day
That the band of pilgrims sailed away;—
Sailed away, strong in hope and faith,
Brave to encounter danger and death,
Unknown terrors by field and flood,
Dragons and giants athirst for blood
And all to see the face of their god
                                       In his holy city of Asgard.

They travelled by day, they travelled by night,
Danger and terror and pain they met;
The women fainted, the strong men's might
Daily weakened and waned, and yet
They struggled along the dubious path
That was leading them onward to certain death,
Supported still by their earnest faith
                                     In the holy city of Asgard.

All of them perished: their corpses strewed
Many a valley and mountain and flood;
Not one returned to repeat the tale
How all their labour could nought avail;
How woman's love and how manhood's strength
Had all been wasted, and spent in vain
On a sheer delusion; and how at length
They were never the nearer, for all their pain,
                                       To the holy city of Asgard.

"We read the story, and calmly smile
At those foolish Norsemen in times of old,
Who could let such childish legends beguile
Their senses, and strongly hold
Their minds enthralled at such baseless dreams,
Such wild, impossible phantom gleams;
We wonder how human destinies
Could ever be swayed by fables like these
                                    Of the holy city of Asgard.

Granted, they died in a foolish cause,
They were heathens, my friend, rank pagans all,
Their light was darkness, their creed, their laws
Of religion and morals could but enthral
Their souls in bondage. But you and I,
Who know where the city of GOD doth lie,—
As those pagans strove, do we Christians strive
With body and heart and soul to arrive
                               At the heavenly city of Asgard?


WE have seen, during this hard winter, general
and utter practical condemnation of the working
of our Poor Law system. Thousands upon thosands
of men, women, and children, hungered and
shivered at our doors. Every heart was touched
with sympathy for the widespread distress, and
men inquired of each other where or how to
give out of their abundance, or out of their
own more tolerable poverty, something towards
feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,
sheltering the houseless. But it does not appear
that it once occurred even to any maniac that,
as our Poor Law system is a great national
system expressly formed to carry out those ends,
and furnished with a large staff of administrators,
we had but to pour freely our voluntary offerings
into the hands of the Poor Law guardians,
and rely upon the proper guardianship of the
poor. Private associations of all kinds were
formed and proposed. It rained money on the
desks of police magistrates, who, to the best of
their ability, separated cases of destitution from
cases of mock destitution besetting the doors
of the police-courts. At the Mansion House
alone (representing a district where comparatively
few poor people dwell), three thousand
destitute persons were relieved during the three
weeks of severest pressure. At the Thames
police-court, pressure was still greater, and it
was great elsewhere. Soup kitchens were
formed by knots of families; bread went out of
pantries; people with leisure enough, by whom
heretofore the duty had been overlooked, sought
the homes of the suffering; even prudence
yielded to the irresistible temptation to give
almost indiscriminate alms in the streets.

What was the Poor Law system doing all
this time? Discouraging, as usual, appeals
for help; making the bread of the poor given
in charitysay rather due from human
justicebitter, in order that as many stomachs
as were not too hungry to be turned, might
turn from it. The principle upon which relief
is administered under the law that taxes us for
succour of the poor appears to be, to make the
help rendered so distasteful, that they must be
far gone indeed in wretchedness who will apply
for it; and the high-hearted poor will starve
rather than take it, will die instead of coming on
the rates. From the Poor Law Commissioners
down to the most ignorant relieving officer,
reduction in the number of paupers, saving in the
rates levied for poor relief, is acknowledged as the
final aim to which the work of the three-and-twenty
thousand Poor Law officers must point
and which the twelve thousand reports annually
sent in to the Poor Law Board must illustrate
as far as possible. The report of the Poor Law
Board issued this year, strikes this key-note in
its opening sentence. "We are happy," it says,
"to be able to state, that since the Poor Law
Amendment Act came into operation, the sum
annually expended for 'Relief to the Poor' has
very largely decreased, and that this expenditure
is in a diminishing ratio when compared with the
population and wealth of the country."

Did this blessed Board, considered as a Board,
keep happy Christmas on this thought? Did it
see the shivering Christmas of the lanes and
hovels, looking everywhere but to the workhouse
for the hand of fellowship to comfort them; the
"wealth and population of the country" looking
everywhere but to the workhouse officials for
trustworthy almoners in men who know and
understand the poor? Did it see its whole system
swept aside with contempt as useless for its
purpose in the hour of need, and did it consider
as a Board what it might say in its next year's
report, about its own skill in effecting savings of
the public alms? For the Poor Law Board,
charity is a nursing mother who puts aloes on
her nipple. In the report before us, there is
not a syllable suggestive of the noble human
duty underlying the whole law of poor relief,

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