The Pit of Death, Morfa, Glamorganshire. 10th. March 1890

From 'TIT-BITS' March 29th 1890.

There was five of us in the gall'ry, all huddled against a wall,

In the terrible silence that followed the rush and the roar and the fall.

Not a muscle moved amongst us - not a sound, not a sigh, not a breath,

For we knew that there in the darkness we were face to face with Death!

Ah, God! the terrible silence that came when the noise was done,

With a thousand feet of earth 'twixt us and the blessed sun:

And the willing hands and hearts three days from us and life,

And kiss the little children, and "Thank God!" of the sore-tried wife.

I spoke in the gruesome darkness, "Mates, be you all alive?"

"Aye," says one and another, until I had counted five.

And the last spoke I knew: "Father! I'm here; it's me!

And I'm not afraid to die, if only I die with thee!"

'Twas my youngest lad, My Davy, too bright, too young to die.

I lifted my hand in the darkness and found him standing by.

"Davy," I said, "who knows? mayhap we'll be saved all right,

And see thy mother and sisters, and thank God with 'em tonight.

Then Morgan spoke in a whisper, as men will speak in Church -

Low and solemn, and awe-struck: "They surely will start a search,

And make for us quick as they can; but, lass it'll not be to-day;

The gallery's fallen n, and we're more than a mile away!"

"Mates!" I cried, "we'll face it -- we'll it like men, I know;

There's a God above us as hears us, and to Him in prayer we'll go.

Down to your knees, mates, quick, and Davy'll lead us in prayer,

And God'll hear us in Heaven, and send us help from there."

Then we knelt in the darkness, and men that had cursed and swore

Now clenched their hands and prayed as never they'd prayed before.

And not one of the five, I swear it, thought only of his own life,

But more of the frightened children, and more of the weeping wife.

"Oh, Lord!" said Davy, aloud, "we are only helpless men

But Thou can'st save if thou wilt! Look down in Thy mercy then.

For the sake of the Good Lord Jesus receive out prayer we pray,

And give us back to our mothers and wives that are so far away!".

And every man said "Amen!" and silence fell on us all,

And we sat us down with our backs 'gainst that terrible, terrible wall.

And Davy crept to my side, and put his head on my knee,

And stroked my hand in the darkness, and whispered, "Dad, it's me."

Were they minutes or hours, or years that we sat there silent and grim?

Till somebody said all solemn, "Davy, boy, sing us a hymn."

And there, in the pit of death, he lifted his voice alone,

And sang of God and Heaven, and the Lamb on the Great White Throne.

And someone falls a-sobbing as if his heart would break,

"It's not for myself I'm crying, but, oh, for the childer's sake!

There's the wife as ill as can be, and the mother's tied to her bed;

Great God! what will they do with no one to win their bread?"

Eight hours, ten hours, twelve hours, and twenty and twenty four,

And the scraps of food all done, and never a chance of more;

And none has the heart to talk, but every now and then

"Save us oh Lord!" said Davy, and each voice answers "Amen!"

Six hours, ten hours, twenty - another day near gone;

And not a sound of deliverance, and hope is nearly done.

And Morgan there in the corner is talking fast and wild,

And thinking the years have gone back, and left him an innocent child

Hark! how he talks of water, and flowers, and sunlight fair,

And the sweet spring mornings alive with God's own blessed air,

And the shadows across the mountains, and the evening's crimson glow,

That steals o'er the wild Atlantic and stains the eternal snow.

And Evans is wandering too. Great God! how the wild words leap!

Telling of things more fearful than ever were dreamed in sleep

How long will it last, how long? Ah, me! must we die like this?

Die with never a smile, nor a word, nor a farewell kiss?

Ten hours, twelve hours, twenty - another day gone by;

And Davy's voice is weak, and ends in a scarce-breathed sigh.

And Morgan and Evans lie still, and Roberts is cold and dead,

And the children and wife and mother must toil for the daily bread.

How long, oh, God! how long? Must we die, must we die and here?

Never did life seem so sweet, and never wert so dear.

Oh! for a cup of water, for a crust that the dogs would spurn;

And Oh! for a sight of the eyes that are weeping for our return.

Then a long, long spell of silence, and sudden I woke with a start.

"Davy!" I cried, and put out my hand and laid it upon his heart.

Silent and still! Oh, God! My boy, my youngest, the light of day!

And the angel had come in the darkness and taken him far away.

I crept on my hands and knees from one to another - dead!

Never a sound or sigh, nor answer to what I said.

Never a beat of the heart or fluttering catch of breath,

Oh, God! I was all alone in that terrible pit of death!

Hark! What's that? Have I slept? Do I Dream? Is it really there?

That sound like a distant knocking that comes through the heavy air?

Is it real? Is it only fancy? Ah, God! can it be that i

Shall yet breathe the fresh spring air, and yet see the bright spring sky?

It's nearer! I hear it - it's plainer! They're coming! I heard it then!

They're coming, they're toiling, they're struggling like brothers and Englishmen!

Davy! come back for a moment! Oh, God! give him back to life!

Davy! we're saved, we're saved for children and mother and wife.

Again, and nearer and clearer - they're toiling with might and main,

Far off, but coming, with never a care of danger or cry of pain.

Can they hope to find us living? What care they? They'll win their way,

For there's many a gallant hero that works in the pits today.

Oh, God! yet a little patience, a little strength, oh, Lord!

Hark! What's that? a voice, - a far-off encouraging word.

Quick, mates, quick! I shall die in this awful place

With noting but darkness around me, and never a friendly face.

What's that? A glimmer of light? God! have I passed through death?

Is this a rush of air, or a touch of Heaven's own breath?

Saved! saved! Thank God! I only, I here of the five alone.

The others? They're standing with Davy in front of the Great White Throne.