The Song Of The Shirt "Oh! God! That Bread Should Be So Dear, And Flesh And Blood So Cheap!"

Thomas Hood

"Oh! God! That Bread Should Be So Dear, And Flesh And Blood So Cheap!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Thomas Hood wrote not only quantities of humorous poetry but he also composed many now-forgotten poems of social protest, like "The Bridge of Sighs," and "The Song of the Shirt." He suffered from tuberculosis and poverty, and perhaps the serious poems were products of that side of his existence, but he was usually cheerful and made his countrymen laugh through the magazines he edited: Gem (1829), Comic Annual (1830–1842), and Hood's Magazine and Comic Miscellany (1844–1845). "The Song of the Shirt" appeared, surprisingly, in the Christmas, 1843, issue of Punch. It was based on an actual incident in which a widow with two children was accused in Lambeth Police Court of pawning clothes of her employer from whom she received only seven shillings a week for her work as his seamstress. "Plying her needle and thread" with weary and worn fingers, amid "poverty, hunger, and dirt," the seamstress with "eyelids heavy and red," sings "The Song of the Shirt."

But why do I talk of Death?
That Phantom of grisly bone,
I hardly fear his terrible shape,
It seems so like my own–
It seems so like my own,
Because of the fasts I keep;
Oh! God! that bread should be so dear,
And flesh and blood so cheap!