Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/22

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HOMES OF THE LONDON POOR.

version. Often the games are only repetitions of questionable sentences. For instance, what is to be said of a game the whole of which consists in singing: "Here comes my father all down the hill, all down the hill," (over and over again) and replying, "We won't get up for his ugly face—ugly face" (repeated ad libitum)? Then come the mother, the sister, the brother, to whom the same words are addressed. Finally, the lover comes, to whom the greeting is, "We will get up for his pretty face." This was, perhaps, the best game the children knew, yet, in as far as it had any meaning or influence, it must be bad. Compare it, or the wild, lawless fighting or gambling, with a game at trap, arranged with ordered companions, definite object, and progressive skill. The moral influence depends, however, on having ladies who will go to the playground, teach games, act as umpires, know and care for the children. These I hope to find more and more. Until now, except at rare intervals, the playground has been mainly useful for the fresh air it affords to the children who are huddled together by night in small rooms, in the surrounding courts. The more respectable parents keep them indoors, even in the day-time, after school-hours, to prevent their meeting with bad companions.

Mr. Ruskin, to whom the whole undertaking owes its existence, has had trees planted in the playground, and creepers against the houses. In May, we have a May-pole or a throne covered with flowers for the May-queen and her attendants. The sweet luxuriance of the spring-flowers is more enjoyed in that court than would readily be believed. Some months after the first festival the children were seen sticking a few faded flowers into a crevice in the wall, saying, they wanted to make it "like it was the day we had the May-pole."

I have tried, as far as opportunity has permitted, to develop the love of beauty among my tenants. The poor of London need joy and beauty in their lives. There is no more true and eternal law to be recognized about them