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Sheenagh Pugh
10 April 2012 @ 02:46 pm
Tokens for the Foundlings is an anthology of poetry about childhood published by Seren for the benefit of the Foundlings Museum in London, with all royalties paid to it. The museum, established by Thomas Coram in 1739 with the support of Hogarth and Handel to rescue foundlings whose mothers had not means to support them, was both the first orphanage in Britain and the first public art gallery.

The poems, all on the subject of orphans or aspects of childhood, come from many poets including Gillian Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Dunmore, Stephen Knight, Don Paterson, Elaine Feinstein, Dannie Abse, Seamus Heaney, David Harsent, Carol Rumens, Kate Bingham, Michael Longley and George Szirtes among others. But possibly the most moving is one written in 1759 by an anonymous mother who left her child at the Foundling Hospital. Some women left tokens with their children, as proof of identity in hopes (usually unfulfilled) that they might one day be able to reclaim them. This one left a poem. The punctuation's hers:

Hard is my Lot in deep Distress
To have no help where Most should find
Sure Nature meant her sacred Laws
Should Men as strong as Women bind
Regardless He, Unable I
To keep this Image of my Heart
'Tis vile to Murder! Hard to Starve
And death almost to me to part
If Fortune should her favours give
That I in better plight may Live
I'd try to have my boy again
And train him up the best of Men.