Work, Lads, and Think
Title:Work, Lads, and Think
Publication:Burnley Free Press And General Advertiser
Date:7th November 1863
Keywords:class, gender, virtue, work
This broadly anapaestic piece contains just six quatrains and is deliberately songlike in its structure and metre. Indeed, this might easily be regarded as a work song, and its language, despite a couple of archaisms, is generally simple. The poem is addressed to the ‘lads’, which is both characteristically working-class and Lancastrian in its connotations, with the ‘Lancashire Lad’ (with various spelling alternatives) being a stock character appearing throughout the region’s literature during this century and the next.
Published at the height of the Cotton Famine, in a town deeply affected by the crisis, one might wonder what ‘work’ is being referred to here, and what the social purpose of this poem might be. It could be that the poem relates to some of the sponsored building projects or other alternative forms of employment which were provided for mill workers laid off during the Cotton Famine. If this is the case, then the tone of the poem suggests that there might have been some resistance towards these forms of employment, either through unsuitability, or lower wages. In any case, the speaker here is clearly subscribing to a generalised work ethic, and the ‘think’ aspect may also relate to the many educational programmes begun at this time.