(From Punch)

Strike, but hear me, my good fellow,
If you will reflect, you can!
Be not as the brutes which bellow;
List to reason, like a man.
Wages fair [for] fair day’s labour
If you like you may refuse;
Whereupon your foreign neighbour
Work will get which you will lose.
Your employers will not lack you;
Spurn their proffer, if you like.
And the public then will back you,
Do you fancy, in your strike?
You, that in these times of trouble,
Do your best to make them worse,
When all food is costing double
What it did to every purse?
Last cold winter just endeavour,
If you can to recollect;
Next may prove as hard, but never
Then the least relief expect.
Deaf to all expostulation,
As your course you now pursue,
My pigheaded friend, the nation
Will be then as deaf to you.
Ah! then I shall see you slouching
At the corner of the street,
Cringing, stooping, crawling, crouching,
Whining sore for bread to eat,
For your wife and children craving
Charity from door to door.
Told that you – now thus behaving –
Should have thought of them before!
I shall see you prostrate sprawling
On the pavement, bare of bones,
And in chalked letters, scrawling
“I am starving!” on the stones.
Or with your companions tramping,
Out at elbow and at show,
Hear you, for the cold while stamping,
Sing, “We’ve got no work to do!”
Don’t believe a word they utter,
Who are making you their fool.
Quarrel with your bread and butter!
How can you be such a fool?
Come, return to your vocation,
Trowel, plumb, and square resume;
Or go seek a situation
At a crossing with a broom.

Title:"Strike, But Hear Me!"


Publication:Accrington Guardian

Published in:Accrington

Date:April 6th, 1861

Keywords:morality, politics, work


This satirical Punch intervention into industrial relations is addressed to working people, urging them to consider their actions if they are to go on strike. In particular it suggests that foreign companies will gain a foothold in the British economy if industrial action affect productivity, and predicts financial penury and hunger for the working classes if they allow themselves to be whipped up by political activists. Industrial unrest was increasing at this time as a downturn in the economy began and memories of the previous decade’s major disputes such as the Preston Strike (1853-54) were strong. The irony here is that, within months of this poem being published, many of the social effects listed here became commonplace on the streets of Lancashire, caused by the Cotton Famine. – SR