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Poetry Thursday – Sarah Cleghorn

Post Series: Poetry Thursday

At the Fourth of July parade in Richmond, VT, a man on stilts walked with the floats. He wore long, glittery red, white, and blue pants and a matching coat. And a tall stars and stripes top hat that finally stopped, because of the stilts, a good eleven feet in the air. He walked by himself, carrying a hand-painted sign that said ‘READ SARAH CLEGHORN’. The parade was slow, so I had a minute to wonder who the heck Sarah Cleghorn is before he passed and I was allowed to see the sign’s back.

‘LOOK HER UP’, it said.  So I did.  Seems as if Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn was a formidable turn of the century Vermonter who used her pen to combat what she saw as social ills—especially regarding child labor and other abuses of the wealthy class. Here are two of them. One for you and one for the tall guy in the parade.
The Incentive

I saw a sickly cellar plant
Droop on its feeble stem, for want
Of sun and wind and rain and dew —
Of freedom! — Then a man came through
The cellar, and I heard him say,
‘Poor, foolish plant, by all means stay
Contented here; for — know you not? —
This stagnant dampness, mold and rot
Are your incentive to grow tall
And reach that sunbeam on the wall.’
— Even as he spoke, the sun’s one spark
Withdrew, and left the dust more dark.

~Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn
The Golf Links
The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.
~Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn

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