The Orphan Boy's Tale
Poems by Mrs. Opie (1800), pp. 149-151
The Universal Magazine, CX (March 1802), p. 207
Stay, lady, stay, for mercy's sake,
And hear a helpless orphan's tale!
Ah! sure my looks must pity wake, . . .
'Tis want that makes my cheek so pale.
Yet I was once a mother's pride,
And my brave father's hope and joy;
But in the Nile's proud fight he died,
And I am now an ORPHAN BOY.
Poor foolish child! how pleased was I,
When news of Nelson's victory came,
Along the crowded streets to fly
And see the lighted windows flame!
To force me home my mother sought;
She could not bear to see my joy;
For with my father's life 'twas bought,
And made me a poor ORPHAN BOY.
The people's shouts were long and loud;
My mother, shuddering, closed her ears;
'Rejoice! Rejoice!' still cried the crowd;
My mother answered with her tears.
'Why are you crying thus,' said I,
'While others laugh and shout with joy?'
She kissed me, . . . and, with such a sigh!
She called me her poor ORPHAN BOY.
'What is an orphan boy?' I said, . . .
When suddenly she gasped for breath,
And her eyes closed; . . . I shrieked for aid, . . .
But, ah! her eyes were closed in death.
My hardships since I will not tell:
But, now no more a parent's joy,
Ah! lady, . . . I have learnt too well
What 'tis to be an ORPHAN BOY.
Oh! were I by your bounty fed!
Nay, gentle lady, do not chide, . . .
Trust me, I mean to earn my bread;
The sailor's orphan boy has pride.
Lady, you weep! . . . Ha? . . . this to me?
You'll give me clothing, food, employ? . . .
Look down, dear parents! Look, and see
Your happy happy ORPHAN BOY.