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Charles and Mary Lamb


Come, my little Robert, near—

Fie what filthy hands are here!

Who, that e'er could understand

The rare structure of a hand,

With its branching fingers fine,

Work itself of hands divine,

Strong, yet delicately knit,

For ten thousand uses fit,

Overlaid with so clear skin

You may see the blood within,—

Who this hand would choose to cover

With a crust of dirt all over,

Till it look'd in hue and shape

Like the forefoot of an ape!

Man or boy that works or plays

In the fields or the highways,

May, without offence or hurt,

From the soil contract a dirt

Which the next clear spring or river

Washes out and out for ever—

But to cherish stains impure,

Soil deliberate to endure,

On the skin to fix a stain

Till it works into the grain,

Argues a degenerate mind,

Sordid, slothful, ill-inclined,

Wanting in that self-respect

Which does virtue best protect.

All-endearing cleanliness,

Virtue next to godliness,

Easiest, cheapest, needfull'st duty,

To the body health and beauty;

Who that's human would refuse it,

When a little water does it?