poem presents aspects of a major provincial industrial city
shared by London. Towards Democracy was published
in four parts, between 1883 and 1902, and reflects Carpenters
Whitmanesque sense of cosmic consciousness and
Extract from Towards
Democracy (18831902). Part I (1883).
As I walked restless and despondent through the
And saw the eager unresting to and froas of ghosts in some
And saw the crowds of tall chimneys going up, and the pall of
smoke covering the sun, covering the earth, lying heavy against
the very ground
And saw the huge refuse-heaps writhing with children picking them
And the ghastly half-roofless smoke-blackened houses, and the
black river flowing below,
As I saw these, and as I saw again far away the Capitalist quarter,
With its villa residences and its high-walled gardens and its
well-appointed carriages, and its face turned away from the wriggling
poverty which made it rich,
As I saw and remembered its drawing-room airs and affectations
and its wheezy pursy Church-going and its gas-reeking heavy-furnished
rooms and its scent-bottles and its other abominations
For I felt stifled, like one who lies half-consciousknowing
not clearly the shape of the evilin the grasp of some heavy
Then out of the crowd descending towards me came a ragged little
Camefrom the background of dirt disengaging itselfan
innocent wistful child-face, begrimed like the rest but strangely
pale, and pensive before its time.
And, in an instant (it was as if a trumpet had been blown in that
place) I saw it all clearly, the lie I saw and the truth, the
false dream and the awakening.
For the smoke-blackened walls and the tall chimneys, and the dreary
habitations of the poor, and the drearier habitations of the rich,
crumbled and conveyed themselves away as if by magic;
And instead, in the backward vista of that face, I saw the joy
of free open life under the sun:
The green sun-delighting earth and rolling sea I sawThe
free sufficing lifesweet comradeship, few needs and common
pleasuresthe needless endless burdens all cast aside,
Not as a sentimental vision, but as a fact and a necessity existing,
In the backward vista of that face.
Stronger than all combinations of Capital, wiser than all the
Committees representative of Labor, the simple need and hunger
of the human heart.
Nothing more is needed.
All the books of political economy ever written, all the proved
impossibilities, are of no account.
The smoke-blackened walls and tall chimneys duly crumble and convey
The falsehood of a gorged and satiated society curls and shrivels
together like a withered leaf,
the forces which lie dormant in the pale and wistful face of a