Whir away, my busy spindle,
Ask not rest or quiet now.
Bridal bed and swaddling raiment
And the shroud preparest thou.
Golden threads – ah! who can tell us
What your destiny may be!
Whether joy or whether sorrow
At the last shall come to thee
Otherwise than we expected,
May our fondest wishes fall,
What is spun for festal uses
Soon may chance to be a pall.
Whir away, my spindle softly,
Life is changeful, like to thee,
Joyous starting on our journey,
Oft return we mournfully.
Soon our voices die in silence
Dark clouds dim the brightest day,
Onward rolls the tide of pleasure,
Love and friendship will decay.
Whir away, my busy spindle,
Rest and peace are not for thee, ---
And my tears, so gently flowing,
Still flow on unceasingly.

Title:The Spinner's Song

Author:H. N.

Publication:Accrington Guardian

Published in:Accrington

Date:January 4th 1862

Keywords:domesticity , spinning, work


Written in a relatively unusual trochaic tetrameter, this song is sung by a spinner to her spindle (most domestic spinners were female). It is both a celebration of the nobility of labour and a lamentation for an unknown sorrow. The references to the creation of both bridal wear and shrouds suggest a symbolism of the life cycle and the register is melancholic and contemplative. It is certainly true that domestic spinning (the origin of the term ‘home-spun’) was increasingly squeezed out by industrial mechanisation so the lot of the traditional spinner in cultural terms was associated with sadness, but as mills began to close during the Cotton Famine even those who found work in the mechanised industry would have sympathised with this poem. – SR