This page was created by Donal Hegarty.  The last update was by Alisa Clapp-Itnyre .

Sounding Childhood

Voice of the Helpless (Band of Mercy)

Voice of the Helpless,” written by Carlotta Perry with music by L. B. Marshall, was published in Sarah Eddy’s Songs of Happy Life for Schools, Homes, and Bands of Mercy (1897), popular both in England and America as part of the Bands of Mercy movement.  This movement, started in 1875 by Catherine Smithies, brought the century’s growing focus on animal welfare to children’s attention.  Bands of Mercy formed in towns and cities, met in evenings or even in schools, and used songs, hymns, skits, and recitations to bring compassionate living to children’s awareness.  This song discusses the growing, and lucrative, market for bird feathers on women’s fashions.  In the song, a young girl hears the cry of orphan nestlings who have been left by their mother, killed by a hunter.  The line “Oh! Lovely, unthinking maiden, The wing that adorns your hat” (v. 3) brings culpability to the young girl.  Anthropomorphizing the situation, the hymn, in verse 4, asks mothers to “think of that other, that tender mother, Brooding upon her nest” when young nestlings are killed.  The music, of the Victorian ballad tradition, adds to the poignancy of this song.

More discussion on this song can be found in Chapter 5, British Hymn Books for Children.

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