About the Fire.
Title:About the Fire.
Date:February 8th 1862
Keywords:domesticity, education, poverty
This skilled and subtle poem celebrates the power of literature, particularly poetry, and recognises its worth to the working classes. In particular the season of winter is seen to be when intellectual pursuits are prevalent and the general picture painted is one of a pleasant, peaceful home. However, the fifth stanza stands in stark contrast and might well be a reference to the onset of the Cotton Famine. Its inclusion suggests that the rest of the poem is retrospective, and that the ‘battle for our daily bread’ interrupts home learning and education. There is perhaps a subtle message to the middle classes here on behalf of the labouring class: that economic hardship, amongst many other effects, retards the self-improvement of the poor which their ‘betters’ have been actively promoting. – SR