God Help the Poor!
Title:God Help the Poor!
Publication:Burnley Free Press And General Advertiser
Date:29th August 1863
This poem in five octets is written in quite static ballad metre – alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter. The rhyme scheme throughout is ABCBDEFE, which gives the writer a relatively high word choice ratio within the strict metrical boundaries. The repeated use of the term ‘Let…’ at the beginnings of several lines towards the end of the poem give the poem something of the register of a prayer.
‘Williffe Cunliam’ (William Cunliffe) was a resident of the town of Burnley whose dialect poetry (‘Settling th’ War’, ‘Th’ Petched Shirt’, ‘Thenkful Jone’) is also featured on this site, but who also wrote in standard English. His standard English poetry tends to be less light-hearted or satirical, and though he generally encourages co-operation in his statements on social issues, there are interesting mentions of those with ‘mansions fine’ and ‘bursting purse’ in this poem which suggest at least a keen awareness of class distinctions and their consequences. Along with many other poems, this piece functions as an appeal for charity, and its entreaties are underpinned by graphic descriptions of the effects of malnutrition. It also, in keeping with several other pieces, ends by looking forward to the end of the American Civil War.