Th’ Shurat Weaver’s Song. by Samuel Laycock. Tune …………. Rory O’More.
Title:Th' Shurat Weaver's Song
Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter
Date:January 10th, 1863
Keywords:charity, dialect, pawn, poverty, war, work
This forty-eight line poem consists of twelve quatrains written in rhyming couplets. After the unstressed syllable[s] at the beginning of most of the lines (technically an example of anacrusis), the metre settles into dactyls, with a ‘stress/unstress/unstress’ pattern. For example, if you see how the stress pattern falls in the second line the middle part of it is clearly waltz-like – ‘Mi / back’s welly / brocken, mi / fingers are / sore’. This metre gives the poem an easy, rolling rhythm which manages to sound like natural speech but can still be set easily to music. The tune this is intended for is an Irish ‘planxty’ dating from the 1840s.
As indicated by the title, the speaker is a weaver required to work the Indian ‘Surat’ cotton variant (grown in the Gujarat region in the northwest of the country) because of the blockade on American cotton from the southern United States during the Civil War. The speaker is male with a large family and bemoans his lot because the raw material is hard to work and he gets paid through ‘piece work’. Lines 7 and 8 are interesting in that they give an indication of the kinds of technical problems which weavers encountered in the textile industry when they worked cotton which was not suitable. After laying the blame for the crisis directly at the door of warring Americans, the middle of the poem expands into a broader account of the social effects of the Cotton Famine, recognising that ‘theawsands’ of people who are in the prime of life are suffering hardship. By the end of the piece, despite earlier declaring a reluctance to ‘ax for relief’, the weaver makes a plaintive bid for charity. This is one of eleven Cotton Famine poems which feature in Brian Hollingworth’s Songs of the People: Lancashire dialect poetry of the industrial revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), the most significant anthology of such works during the twentieth century.