Farewell Old Year.
Title:Farewell Old Year
Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter
Date:Dec 26th 1863
Keywords:morality, poverty, slavery, war, work
In a reflective poem marking the end of a difficult year, Thomas Hodson returns to the themes addressed in his earlier (1861) poem, “Give Us Our Daily Bread”, of the spread of poverty among a previously proud and independent workforce and the hope for some relief. The tone of the poem reflects the grind of ongoing suffering, for example in the repeated use of “gloom” and “gloomy.” Hodson’s earlier ambivalence towards the American conflict has also given way to much stronger views – though he expresses some admiration for the bravery of Confederate soldiers, he is horrified by the South’s efforts to maintain slavery. Abraham Lincoln’s explicit advocacy of emancipation in 1862 may well have been responsible for this clarification in Hodson’s views. Hodson’s reference to “The helpless children of the negro race” would not have been deemed problematic at the time, with both the use of the word “negro” and the paternalist tone being common in British abolitionist discourse of the period. Like “Give Us Our Daily Bread”, the poem moves from a sombre to an optimistic tone, ending with hopes that the new year will bring peace, renewed industrial prosperity, and generous relief for Lancashire’s working people. – RM.
The fifty-two line poem is arranged in thirteen quatrains written in rhyming couplets. The metre is iambic pentameter and the diction, as so often with New Year poems of the period, is formal, indicating something of a valedictory address to the closing year as a personified entity. Other personifications include capitalised ‘Peace’ and ‘Commerce’, obviously equated in the speaker’s mind as co-dependent in this case.- SR