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Kingdom Poets: Charles Kingsley

Charles Kingsley (1819—1875) was an English priest known for such novels as Westward Ho!, for his political essays, for his poetry, and for his collections of sermons. Kingsley was involved in the Christian Socialist movement, and often wrote his novels to expose injustice.

Kingsley is best known for his children’s novel, The Water-Babies (1863), which he wrote to teach Christian values. The main character is a ten-year-old chimneysweep named Tom. Due to mistreatment, Tom is chased out of town where he drowns in a river. Fairies turn him into a creature called a water-baby, and assign him a task. This book helped lead to an act of Parliament which prevented children being forced to climb chimneys.

He was appointed the Queen’s chaplain in 1859, and became a professor at Cambridge University in 1860. Kingsley was also friends with the Scottish novelist George MacDonald.

A LAMENT The merry merry lark was up and singing, And the hare was out and feeding on the lea; And the merry merry bells below were ringing, When my child’s laugh rang through me. Now the hare is snared and dead beside the snow-yard, And the lark beside the dreary winter sea; And the baby in his cradle in the churchyard Sleeps sound till the bell brings me.

And here’s another:

THE DEAD CHURCH Wild wild wind, wilt thou never cease thy sighing? Dark dark night, wilt thou never wear away? Cold cold church, in thy death sleep lying, The Lent is past, thy Passion here, but not thine Easter-day. Peace, faint heart, though the night be dark and sighing; Rest, fair corpse, where thy Lord himself hath lain. Weep, dear Lord, above thy bride low lying; Thy tears shall wake her frozen limbs to life and health again.


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