"Lips Say, "God Be Pitiful," Who Never Said, "God Be Praised""

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Handicapped by semi-paralysis and confined between 1821 and 1845 in a darkened room, Mrs. Browning was not a self-centered woman; her concern with the suffering of the lower class and with people anywhere in slavery or political oppression enabled her to rise above her own misfortunes to become one of the great poets of social protest. Hearing of children who must go to bed without food and of the increasing wealth of the already prosperous middle class, she attempted to awaken the consciences of her own class, not by advocating particular reforms but by clearly showing the horrible conditions of life that were present in London itself. In this poem she shows how most people have the tenderness to pity the starving children but are blinded by greed until a loved one dies; then the soul discovers the plight of the multitudes and can learn to pray, thus overcoming selfishness. While such a remedy is, perhaps, farfetched, the poem does clearly portray the need to overcome greed in order to save the poor and also to improve the callous behavior of the thoughtless middle class.

"There is no God," the foolish saith,
But none, "There is no sorrow;"
And nature oft the cry of faith,
In bitter need will borrow:
Eyes which the preacher could not school,
By wayside graves are raised;
And lips say, "God be pitiful,"
Who ne'er said, "God be praised."
Be pitiful, O God.