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28 October 2014
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Hartlake memorial: poem
The bridge.As well as the Hartlake Bridge song which was written to remember that terrible day, poems were also written. Here's one...
The bridge at Hartlake from the London Illustrated News
The Rotten Bridge Written upon that dreadful catastrophe at Hartlake on the river Medway Oct 20 1853
By George Bailey of Cowden

Humanity come drop a tear,
O'er kindred mortal's awful fate;
Snatch'd from the world & all that's dear,
And usher'd on the eternal state.

Far from the long lov'd scenes of home,
They sought the golden Kentish land;
Prompted by poverty to roam,
And labour'd here with willing hand.

Wild & untaught strains they sung,
As from their labour they return'd;
The fading woods with echo rung,
And oft for home their bowels yearn'd.

The creaking wain now reel'd along,
To bear them to their hovel bed;
Light hearted sang the peasant throng,
As o'er the deep their pathway led.

The offrighted steed glanc'd o'er the flood,
And plung'd athwart with loaded wain;
The tott'ring pallisades of wood
And rotten timbers burst in twain.

Methinks I hear the fearful crash,
No human power on earth could save;
With piercing shrieks they downward dash
Engulph'd within a watery grave

Who, but one spark of feeling owns,
But melt to sorrow's pitying tone;
When fancy paints their death-like groans,
That last cold grasp, that stifled moan

Old rotten bridge, thy very name
Posterity with grief will hear;
And brand thine owner's name with shame,
And weep a wild empassion'd tear.

Unnumber'd blessings God has given,
Yet mammon fills with gold his purse
And, grasping, holds the gifts of Heaven,
Denies their use, & brings a curse.

Ye victims, sleep in calm repose,.
Though nature shrinks from such a bed;
Ye'll rest as peacefully as those,
With sculptur'd marble over head.

Poem published in 'In a Forgotten Corner' by Kevin Laing
Poems written in the 19th century by George Bailey of Cowden, Kent. First published in 1854. Merlin Books, Braunton, Devon.

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