The strong may work, the rich may give,
Each man may bid his fellow live,
Or make his death sublime;
And all with bended knee may pray
To God that He will take away
The curse that makes “Short Time.”


Author:Henry Cook

Publication:Bury Guardian

Published in:

Date:September 6th 1862

Keywords:charity, industry, poverty


This poem was preceded by the following note: [Note – “Mr. Henry Cook, the water-colour painter, of London, lately of Manchester, has written a poem of 38 stanzas, upon the subject which is causing so much suffering in many houses just now. It is, we believe, now to be had at the low price of 6d. per copy, and all the proceeds of the sale will be generously handed by the author to the Relief Fund. Several booksellers in Manchester have liberally undertaken to sell the poem, without charging any commission, so that the largest amount possibly may be realised for the fund from its publication. The author recites, in flowing and graceful verse, the miseries of some once happy homes upon which the blight of “Short Time” has fallen. He concludes his stanzas thus: - ]

After this the poem is presented on the page, followed by a further note: [Note:- “The means suggested by the writer would go far to smooth the ruggedness of poverty’s sorrow, and to infuse a deeper faith in the brotherhood of man. The poem will doubtless have, as it deserves, a large sale, and no doubt all booksellers will keep it on their counters.”]

We have yet to find the full version of this poem (a copy of the original broadsheet would be very exciting!) but this single stanza and its description gives us a flavour of the piece and its context. Like Isa Craig’s ‘An Offering to Lancashire’ of 1863, this represents poetry composed and sold to aid charitable relief, and the fact that booksellers were willing to sell this without a cut suggests the kinds of collective efforts which were brought into being during the time of the Cotton famine. – SR