The Wail of the Dalton Sufferers

 

(The fifth of the Black Hole Ballads)
(With apologies to Longfellow)

It was the sixth form classroom
On a cold and wintry day,
And we all had taken exercise
To keep us warm, you see.

Blue were our cheeks as the fairy flax,
And all our noses red,
And our hands were white as the hawthorn buds,
And we sat each one half-dead.

The master he sat beside the fire,
His book was on his knee,
He felt not how the veering draught
Blew round us freezingly.

Then up and spake a scholar brave,
Had felt the biting blast,
“I prithee let’s sit round the fire,
Or away we shall have passed!”

“Last week the room had a fireless grate,
This week a fire we see!”
But the master took his book from his knee
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the north-west;
And it got so dark we could not see
A yard beyond the desk.

“Please may we have the gases lit?”
Asked someone hopefully.
With the globe all smashed and the mantle broke
We’d light eventually.

“O master, we see a gleaming light;
Oh, say what may it be?”
But the master answered never a word,
Too deep immersed was he.

The breeze blew all round the room
Like spirits in unrest,
And as weeping willows hung the class,
With icicles on each breast.

At 4-15 the school bell rang,
The master stood aghast
To see his form of scholars fair
All frozen hard and fast.

He placed us right before the fire,
And left us there to melt,
But the water put the fire out
So no more heat we felt.

Such was the Sixth Form classroom,
In that cold and wintry murk;
Oh save us all from such an hour
Till miners are back at work.

1926