Come As You Are.
A Rhyme for Ragged Schools.
Come to the school that your friends are preparing,
Poor little brothers, come over to us!
Just as you stand, in the clothes you are wearing,
Though they be ragged and scanty as thus;
Come from the alley, the lane, and the passage,
Come in your rags,---but as clean as you can;
We have a mission to each, and a message,
Happy and true, of his rights as a Man.
Don't be downhearted, if fools for an hour
Laugh at your schooling and treat it with scorn;
Answer them truly, that "Knowledge is Power,"
And that a blockhead were better unborn;
Laugh as they may, your laugh will be longest,
Your's is for ever, their's but for once;
Soon shall they own you both wisest and strongest;
Scholars must govern the fool and the dunce!
Yes, my boys, come! without fear or suspicion,
All that we wish is your gain and your good:
Body and soul to improve your condition,
And we would better it more if we could;
But where we cannot, yourselves may be able,
Willingly coming to hear and to learn,
How, for the soul to be happy and stable,
And, for the body, your living to earn!
So then come over, young scholars, and listen,
Helping yourselves, as in honour you ought!
We'll tell you things that'll make your eyes glisten,
Brighten the spirit, and heighten the thought:
Come then, and welcome, in rags and in tatters,
Anyhow come,---but as clean as you can;
Come and learn gladly these glorious matters,
All the best rights in the duties of Man!
Martin Farquhar Tupper, Ballads for the Times, 1851
Although the poem's persona addresses the inner city
, working class
children that the Ragged School
s movement was serving, and the poem was widely circulated, there's no evidence to suggest that school reformers ventured into the slums
to recite it as a means of recruitment
. More likely, the poem was used by supporters to inspire
financial and political support
for the movement.