A Voice Out of the Distress

Parent of Good, how long, how long
Shall famine, sadness, be the theme of song?
The smokeless chimney and the silent loom
Reflect each day accumulated gloom.
Less hopeful seem the victims of distress,
Who hitherto have borne with noble manliness,
In mercy see this fratricidal strife,
That urges brother on to brother’s life.
Stay this sad war, and early may we see
The gentle reign of peace and industry.
We blame our country not, for neutral place;
For, otherwise, would be to her disgrace;
We know she yearns to give her children food,
And tho’ she gives not, still consults their good.
Oh! thou, who rul’st the nations with a nod,
To whom we can but pray – thou allwise God
Bring, we beseech thee peace, and rest, and love,
Down from the angelic realms above.

Title:A Voice Out of the Distress

Author:J. Lee

Publication:North Cheshire Herald

Published in:

Date:July 25th 1863

Keywords:hunger, religion, war


This poem, which was the subject of the Cryptic Poem Competition in April 2020 (see blog), addresses the concerns of the Cotton Famine directly and is framed as a prayer to the ‘Parent of Good’. The language is heavily gendered with victims of the ‘Distress’ described as bearing their suffering with ‘noble manliness’, even though as many workers in cotton mills were women and children as adult males. Interestingly, the poem praises the British government’s stance of neutrality even at this late stage of the war, and does not mention the issue of slavery. There is however, tacit criticism that the country does not ‘give her children food’. – SR