Poems - Righteousness or Revenue

Righteousness or Revenue?

This poem was published with the following heading from the Editor:

The following verses have been sent to us by Miss M. E. Barber, our missionary at Fuh-chow. They were written after reading the speech of the Bishop of Durham on the Opium Question (see Intelligencer for February, page 150). She says:— ‘I faced this morning 240 Chinese girls, and I asked them to pray that God would bless every effort to root out the opium curse from their country. With one voice the girls said, “England sent it to us.” For one moment I was speechless, and then almost with tears, I said, “Yes, it is true, but England is sorry she did.” Is she sorry?’—Ed.

Verse 1

Righteousness or Revenue?
England, thine the choice!
Country, dearer far than life,
Wilt thou heed the voice
Calling thee to clear thy name
From thy share in China’s shame?

Verse 2

Righteousness or Revenue?
‘Revenue,’ she cried.
Then the curse began to work:
China far and wide
Groaned beneath the opium blight,
Wandered further into night.

Verse 3

Righteousness or Revenue?
Orientals say
‘Give us Revenue,’ and we,*
We have nought to say
Whilst our coffers ring with gold
Price of curse, to China sold.

Verse 4

Righteousness or Revenue?
Ah! we watch with tears,
England’s opportunity;
Yet dismiss our fears,
Whilst we ask that God will sway
England’s will, the price to pay.

Verse 5

Righteousness or Revenue?
Awful is the choice,
Should we choose the Revenue
And despise the voice,
Calling us to rise and be
Freed from Mammon’s tyranny.

Verse 6

Righteousness, whate’er the price!
God make this our choice!
Oh! may England’s stalwart sons
With a clarion voice
For her stainless honour plead,
Though her coffers gold must bleed.

Verse 7

Righteousness! This first we seek!
God in Heaven, hear:
When we turn us from our sin
Thou wilt bend Thine ear;
Hear, and heal, and bless our land,
Make her in Thy Might to stand.

Verse 8

Then from China’s stretching shores
Myriads yet shall stand,
Clasping hands with England’s sons
In the sinless land:
Use, O God, our country where
Opium fumes now taint the air!

Verse 9

Even yet shall China learn
England can repent:
Costly though the sacrifice,
She shall yet relent:
And her name no more shall be
Linked with China’s misery.

Fuh-chow, May 1905. Margaret E. Barber

  • The answer to the question we put to the Chinaman, ‘Why do you grow the poppy?’ is always, ‘It pays,’

Meter: Published:
Earliest Known Publication: : The Church Missionary Intelligencer, Volume 30, Issue. 1905. London: Church Missionary Society.

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