Alexander McLachlan (1818-1896)

McLachlan is among the most important 19th century Canadian poets. A native of Scotland, he moved to Canada in 1940. He was often called "the Burns of Canada" and wrote of working people and the backwoods, sometimes, like Burns, using dialect in his verse. His unfinished epic "The Emigrant" told of Scottish immigrants who settled Upper Canada. In this poem, probably his most important short verse, he criticizes the pious who preach to the poor without addressing their poverty, crime, or their lack of education.


We live in a rickety house,
   In a dirty dismal street,
Where the naked hide from day,
   And thieves and drunkards meet.

And pious folks with their tracts,
   When our dens they enter in,
They point to our shirtless backs,
   As the fruits of beer and gin.

And they quote us texts to prove,
   That our hearts are hard as stone,
And they feed us with the fact,
   That the fault is all our own.

It will be long ere the poor,
   Will learn their grog to shun,
While it's raiment, food and fire,
   And religion all in one.

I wonder some pious folks,
   Can look us straight in the face,
For our ignorance and crime,
   Are the Church's shame and disgrace.

We live in a rickety house,
   In a dirty dismal street,
Where the naked hide from day,
   And thieves and drunkards meet.

- 1874

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