The Black Hole of Calcutta

by EBENEZER ELLIOTT (1781-1849)

WHAT for Saxon, Frank, and Hun,
What hath England’s bread-tax done?
Ask the ruin it hath made;
Ask of bread-tax-ruin’d trade;
Ask the struggle and the groan,
For the shadow of a bone,
Like a strife for life, for life,
Hand to hand, and knife to knife.

Hopeless trader, answer me!
What hath bread-tax done for thee
Ask thy lost and owing debts;
Ask our bankrupt-throng’d Gazettes.
Clothier, proud of Peterloo!
Ironmaster, loyal, too!
What hath bread-tax done for you?

Let the Yankee tariff tell,
None to buy, and all to sell;
Useless buildings, castle strong,
Hundred thousands, worth a song;
Starving workmen, warehouse full,
Saxon web, from Polish wool,
Grown where grew the wanted wheat,
Which we might not buy and eat.
Merchant, bread-tax’d-trade wont pay,
Profits lessen every day;
Sell thy stock and realize,
Let thy streeted chimneys rise;
And when bread-tax’d ten are two,
Learn what bread-tax’d rents can do.

Sneak! that wouldst for groat a year
Sell thy soul, and sell it dear!
Self-robb’d servile! sold, not bought,
For the shadow of a groat!
Unbribed Judas! what thy gain,
By sad Europe’s millions slain—
By our treasures, pour’d in blood
Over battle-field and flood—
Bread-tax’d profits, endless care,
Competition in despair.
With thy bile and with thy gear,
Wheels and shuttles gainless here,
With the remnant of thy all,
Whither, reptile, wilt thou crawl?

What hath bread-tax done for me?
Farmer, what for thine and thee?
Ask of those who toil to live,
And the price they cannot give;
Ask our hearths, our gainless marts,
Ask thy children’s broken hearts,
Ask their mother, sad and grey,
Destined yet to parish pay.

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