They tell us that labour, how urgent soe'er,
By provender never was hindered, or prayer;
Most think of the first, ere in business they mix,--
Let us think of the last, too, ere bell rings at Six.
The west may be dark, but there's light in the east,
For there still is some comfort for those that have least;
Though the days be at shortest, and cloudy the heaven,
The morn will begin to be breaking by Seven.
Take time by the forelock, say proverbs of old,
That deserve to be written in letters of gold;
The sluggard is always behindhand and late,--
We would fain break the neck of our business by Eight.
Safe bind and safe find, is an excellent key,
And order the best of all locks that can be;
Without it a mill is a place fit for swine;
And what are the men?--Hark! the clock has told Nine!
The great bell is going--it biddeth to prayer;
The church-doors are oped, but we cannot be there:
Yet the time has been once and it will be again,
When the men from the mill hastened thither at Ten!
The morning is wearing;--we work as we may!
The harder we labour, the better our pay:
We think of the Saturday night that is near,
Yet the stroke of Eleven we joyfully hear:
For though we toil on without pause or complaint,
Yet fingers will weary, and hearts will grow faint:
And there never was workman that rested too soon,
Or failed to be thankful because it was Noon.
Then gaily we hasten through alley and street,
To the dinner so ready, the cottage so neat;
And with toil and with task we are glad to have done,
In the home of our wife and our children, till One.
The hour that comes next is the worst that we know,
The toil seems so hard and the clock seems so slow:
When the sun is so bright, and the sky is so blue;
Who would not much rather be idle at Two?
But come, when unpleasant the thing or the place,
Then keep a good spirit, and show a good face!
Let your fingers move nimbly, as nimbly can be,
And you'll start with surprise when you hear it strike Three.
We learn to be thankful, when weak or distrest,
For the House that brings peace and the Day that brings rest:
Who thinks of it oft'ner? who longs for it more?
Who welcomes it gladlier?--Hark! there is Four!
All the things that we see, all the things that we know,
Are earthly, of earth, and they bind us below;
'Tis hard to look upward and harder to strive;--
Now only one hour! for the Minster tells Five!
But they that are thankful, and faithful, and true,
May look to the end and the things that ensue,
As calmly and gladly as we, at this time,
Wait for leave to go home at the Six o'clock chime!