Author:Spencer T. Hall
Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter
Date:Dec 5th 1863
This poem is comprised of 8 quatrains in iambic pentameter with an AABBCCDD rhyme scheme. There is a clarity and predictability to the couplet end rhymes as well as the periods that neatly conclude every quatrain. Because the reader anticipates a completed end rhyme, when they are met with this sonic reward they feel satisfied. The sentiment of ease is also evoked through this use of consistent end-rhymes, which informs the actual content and message of the poem: To be kind, to be generous, to look out for your fellow human beings can be easy. It is as simple as a nursery rhyme. The majority of the lines also contain medial caesuras, which create pauses after the sustained litany of “Be Kind” to further emphasize the poem’s major point.
At the same time, the litany of “Be kind” resembles the religious language of prayers. This formal choice adds more weight to the suggestion by connecting the mission of kindness to the religious responsibility of acting as a standup citizen and caring human being. The poem’s final line promises that the reward for this behavior is joy, which again calls upon the religious designation that joy can be an ultimate value and goal.
This poem balances an acknowledgement of those suffering with an active advisement for the readers’ action. The speaker accounts for those enduring the Cotton Famine while extending its reach to all people in conditions of hardship: the injured, the oppressed, the outcast, the poor, the old, the disabled etc. The poem attempts to capture the ubiquity of life’s tragedy by listing and drilling off these circumstances until the speaker feels overwhelmed and exclaims “Oh, be kindly to all!” (24).
In an effort to incite empathy, the reader is brought up close to these suffering people. Through some comparison, they are made to see themselves and recognize their advantageous and powerful position. Most importantly, the urgency for action both encompasses and transcends the current moment. Kindness should be offered to those struggling during the Cotton Famine, but it’s not exclusive to these hours of crisis. Kindness is meant for all and for always.
University of Exeter (Kenyon College, USA)