One autumn eve, as through the street
I slowly passed along,
I heard a group of boys and girls
Hurrahing loud and long.
I wondered what their cheering meant:
But as I came more near
I paused a moment, then at once
The cause to me was clear.
A man was lighting up the lamps,
So pleasant in the street,
And every time that one he lit,
Fresh shouts his efforts greet.
“Yes, you are right, my boys and girls,”
I said as I passed on,
“To cheer for light amid the gloom,
And shout for darkness gone.”
‘Tis thus men hail the light of truth
Amid their mental gloom,
Which cheers their path from youth to age,
And shines beyond the tomb.
Light gives its lustre to the eye –
Its gladness to the heart;
Ad they must surely not be wise
Who from its beams depart.
The truly gifted, wise and good,
Like brilliant stars have shed
Their lustre on the mental world,
Illuming heart and head;
While Knowledge spreads her treasur’d store,
A rich and goodly show,
And Science with her torch illumes
Each path we choose to go.
What floods of light the Press has pour’d
Since Caxton’s gloomy day!
What shouts of gladness have been heard
For each increasing ray!
What holy paeans have been raised
To hail the light divine!
Though night-throned Superstition still
Forbids that light to shine.
But not more welcome is the sun
To men on stormy sea
Than is the light of truth that comes
To set the spirit free –
Free from the gloom of ignorance,
Of folly, shame, and sin,
Renewing thought, and word, and deed,
And giving peace within.
See in the firmament of mind
What galaxies appear!
They shine for all who wish to have
Their pathway bright and clear.
There is no plea for ignorance,
Amid such radiance bright;
And he who goes astray must own
That he prefers the night.
And yet the rich effulgence which
Imparts to us such glee,
Is twilight when compared with that
The coming age shall see.
Then still hurrah for light and truth,
And for the bright’ning day;
And welcome still the hand that bears
But one increasing ray!
Droylsden, Sep 23rd, 1865.

Title:Hurrah for the Light

Author:J. Burgess

Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:Sept 30th

Keywords:education, work


This poem by the popular local poet Joseph Burgess celebrates knowledge and learning in highly metaphorical language. It is significant that he begins the poem with the image of children cheering the lighting of street lamps, but adult education was also significantly increased in scope during the Cotton Famine, as demonstrated in poems such as Joseph Ramsbottom’s ‘Gooin’ t’ Schoo’. The extensive unemployment caused by the crisis obviously left many workers with time on their hands and there was a mass movement to provide education opportunities through factory schools and existing bodies like the Mechanics Institutes. – SR