Hearts and Homes.
Title:Hearts and Homes.
Date:October 4th 1862
This poem was preceded by the following quotation from the Times newspaper: [Note – “It is impossible, even if one had never heard of the cotton famine, to travel many miles through this district without being struck by the signs of the great calamity which has befallen it. The thick smoky curtain which usually hangs between heaven and earth has been lifted up. There are a glare of sunlight and a bright clear atmosphere. On every side giant factories, which were the support of thousands, stand mute and motionless, giving no sign of life save here and there a streamlet of thin vapour, lost almost as soon as it issues forth, telling of “half-time” and wages reduced just short of starvation point. – The Times, August 22.”]
As in the coronavirus outbreak of 2020, a cleaner atmosphere in this poem is associated with human inactivity and widespread unemployment. Several poems written during the Cotton Famine noted the ‘smokeless chimneys’, but found them to be strangely melancholy reminders of human misery. This piece is rare in that it numbers the amount of homes affected by the crisis, and although this is obviously an estimate, it may not be far off the mark. – SR