Hunger and hope – for Bloggers Unite

 Today many people who write blogs will be writing about hunger, in the hope that our words and sentiments will help eradicate hunger for the “hunger and hope” event. I have promised the folks at Bloggers Unite that I would post something today about hunger. I write on a full stomach, perhaps an overly full one.

That set me thinking long and hard about hunger, and its bedfellow greed. They make poor bedfellows. Today we are supposed to link hunger and hope and so I started writing about the starving billions and the greedy billion, and my thought turned to wealth and poverty, and to starvation and obesity. I also thought about diseases of the wealthy. The poor are pennyweight by circumstances but some wealthy are pennyweight by illness.

But most of those who read this will be aware of that and I deleted my first draft, in its entirety and sat gathering my thoughts staring at the keyboard and the screen, because this is a difficult subject. It is hard to communicate to those with full bellies the overwhelming nature of hunger, in a way to help them understand it, when I myself hardly understand it.

Much writing is chance encounters of an unknown kind. I glanced at an old paperback volume called “Poetic Gems” that I bought in 1968 and then I knew what I should write about. I should tell you about a poem, written a hundred and twenty years ago in Scotland, when there were many starving people in Scotland. It was written by a gentleman whose sincere poetry was often mocked and can be hilarious – William McGonagall.

McGonagall wrote poor poetry; he respected Queen Victoria and narrated stories, sometimes of disasters in rhyme lacking scansion but he frequently hid wisdom in his doggerel.

For example, when writing about a terrible disaster when the railway bridge over the River Tay collapsed in a gale sending people in a train that was crossing the bridge at the time to their doom, McGonagall commented sagely at the end of “the Tay Bridge Disaster”

“For the stronger we our houses do build

The less chance we have of being killed”.

Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” about Christmas in which a miser becomes a philanthropist one Christmas. Somehow its hero, Mr Scrooge, has a name associated with his miserliness, rather than philanthropy to which he was converted by the end of the tale.

“The Christmas Goose” is William McGonagall’s Christmas poem and it is founded in the grim reality of the world, rather than in Dickens’ London where selfish misers are visited by ghosts and then reform.

In “the Christmas Goose” the hero of the poem, Mr Smiggs, decides to buy a Goose for Christmas, which his wife, Peggy, will cook. He pays a crown – a cheap price for the Christmas goose, and carries it under his arm homewards. He is pleased at the prospect of eating a goose for Christmas.

When Smiggs bought the goose

He suspected no harm,

But a naughty boy stole it

From under his arm”.

Mr Smiggs calls the police, the boy is apprehended and the goose restored to Mr Smiggs. The naughty boy is sentenced to ten days in prison for stealing the goose.

 “So Smiggs ran home to his dear Peggy

Saying “Hurry, and get this fat goose ready,

That I have bought for one crown;

So my darling, you need not frown”.  

Peggy marvels at how cheap the goose was – Mr Smiggs did well to buy it so inexpensively.

The poem ends with Mr Smiggs’ thoughts about his Christmas goose:-

“No matter how the poor are clothed,

Or if they starve at home,

We’ll drink our wine and eat our goose

Aye, and pick it to the bone.”

I will leave you, today, when bloggers unite for hunger and hope, with Mr Smiggs’ thoughts about his Christmas Goose, which still portray the reality of the world in which we live. William McGonagall understood that we are all really Mr Smiggs rather than Mr Scrooge,. We will not bring hope for the hungry until we broaden our world and expand selfishness into caring; that will bring hope for the hungry.


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