The Cotton Famine – Christmas, 1862

England! thy Christmas mirth is mixed with tears,
While pinching penury and want despoil
Ten thousand homes, where dwelt thy sons of toil;
Gone are thrifty fruits of struggling years.
Against the brighter past, thy doubts and fears
See future clouds that darken like a foil;
Yet seeds of joy find root in sorrow’s soil;
To Faith and Hope the coming dawn appears.
Endure and trust, while Charity divine
Thy hungry feeds, and clothes thy shiv’ring poor;
Then, when the day of peace again shall shine
With golden gladness o’er yon western shore,
A nobler thrice bless’d commerce shall be thine,
Stain’d with the guilt of slavery no more.
Manchester, Dec. 22, 1862

Title:The Cotton Famine – Christmas, 1862

Author:Samuel Clarkson

Publication:Burnley Free Press And General Advertiser

Published in:Burnley

Date:1st March 1863

Keywords:charity, domesticity, poverty, slavery


This poem is written in the form of a traditional Petrarchan sonnet with an octet followed by a sestet featuring distinct rhyme schemes despite there being no formal stanza break between them. The rhyme scheme for this piece is a very traditional ABBAABBA CDCDCD and the language used also is classical, with archaic compressions such as ‘bless’d’ and ‘stain’d’ helping to maintain the rhythm.

The classic virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity are referred to in this poem and there is a relatively rare explicit reference to the Lancastrian cotton industry’s former complicity in the American slave trade. The winter of 1862 was generally believed to have been the low point of the Cotton Famine in many parts of the region because the bad weather combined with the increasing economic effects of the blockade, and relief efforts had not yet been organised to sufficiently cope with the extent of the crisis.

- SR.