(For Fanny Howe)
The costume of the people is so wretched, that, to a one who has not practiced such visitations, it is almost inconceivable. Shoes or stockings are seldom to be seen on children and often not on grown persons, so yet they stand shod only in the plush of their red bogs, making unsteady verticals.
The rags in which both men and women are clothed are so worn and complicated, that it is hardly possible to imagine to what article of dress they have originally belonged. Duds, threads, fatigues and once-fancy hand-me-downs step out in parallel, all swaddled in knots, bedizened in glad rags; wardrobes run down past the least coherence.
It has been observed that these sheer beasts never dismantle themselves of their clothes when they go to bed; but the fact is, that not only are they in general destitute of blankets, but, if they once took off their clothes, it would be difficult to put them on again. Is not this a terrible way to be naked: wanting spread or comforter, however mute; to lie in envy of the gravel under grass?
Thus, their habit is worn day and night till it literally falls to pieces; and even when first put on, it is usually cast-off fragments; for there is not one subject out of ten who ever gets a coat bespoke, but chaff away instead their little means at hazard, where at last, exposed by numbers and for lack of other stuff, they pawn the nails of their fingers and toes, with shirred and smooth and shaggy, even to their kelder and dimissaries. That's the way they walk in view: tender and fractious, unsheltered and exposed, while yet not wholly detached, as the moth waits famished and the needle rusts.
God! Just think of all those pianos standing with their white tusks splayed in anticipation of toccatas. So toe that foxtrot, glide your finery, and be glad to be in the first frush and you'll get by. Chaffer away as the spitfire blooms run above you. Untache yourself, would you, and get up on that stone like a bloody peacock! Get yourself into the swim. Sure, any animal is “disfigured” when disrobed of its hide, “and cold too”, as the motley sow remarked to her farrow. Unbrace yourself there in front of the warmth. Let that uniform out a loop and join us in the next tranche laundered. The bunny hugs its burrow as the addict does his coupon. You can never have too much exposure. But I cannot lie! Bleach leached once even into my livery, quite stemmed that old cashflow. I’d a damned sight sooner break into a pavan than go higgling with those demons. Let the cast of them go splat and which of you would raise a finger to get out? Climb past these unmentionables let you. The human is a thing who walks around disintegrating.