YOU ask me why I sing
To the anvil’s merry ring,
While the hammer falls upon it loud and strong;
You say that I am glad,
That my heart is never sad,
And you wonder I’m so happy all day long.
I am glad and light of heart,
As the lark that soars above;
And I bid all care depart
While I toil for home and love.
My hands were made to toil,
My face was made to smile,
And a smile is always better than a frown;
For so the children say,
As round my forge they play,
While they watch the burning sparks fly up and down.
Let your labour bring you joy,
And my maxim you will prove ---
That you’d better sing than sigh
While you toil for home and love.
My cottage down the lane,
My field of golden grain,
Make my heart to sing in gladness and in joy;
Beneath the old plum-tree
At eventime sit we ---
Myself, my wife, and our curly headed boy.
In my labour I have joy,
For my heart will never rove
From my cot, my wife, and boy,
While I toil for home and love.

Title:For Home and Love

Author:J. O.

Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:November 23rd, 1861

Keywords:domesticity, work


This poem celebrates labour and domesticity and suggests that the former is dependent on the latter for motivation. The speaker is a blacksmith declaring that he is happy in his work because it enables him to support and express love for his family. Poems of this type were common in newspapers throughout the nineteenth century but the context here gives it an extra resonance. This early stage in the American conflict, six months after the Union blockade of exports from the Confederate states, created huge local anxiety and as towns heavily dependent upon cotton, Ashton and Stalybridge required their citizens to be as stoic as possible, despite the knowledge that almost all employment would be affected by the Distress. Poems like this act as encouragements for social cohesion during periods of crisis, and to some extent reflect the worries of the writers on behalf of the wider community. – SR