The Work Shall Fill The Mills Again. By John Plummer.
Title:The Work Shall Fill the Mills Again
Date:Nov 15 1862
Containing five twelve-line stanzas, this piece is written in the ballad meter
variant which alternates iambic eight- and seven-syllables lines with feminine end
rhymes characterising the latter. The rhyme scheme is alternating throughout. The
last four lines of the stanzas work effectively as choruses or refrains, with the
hopeful element of the certainty that work will come back to the mills offset by the
emphasis of the emotional anxiety of the labourers. The language is especially
‘poetic’ in the sense that it includes elisions such as ‘o’er’ to keep the meter, and
frequent use of poetic syntax to maintain the rhyme scheme. There is the
personification of ‘Peace’ and ‘Famine’, and arguably, through capitalisation,
‘Wrong’ and ‘Right’.
John Plummer wrote several poems on the subject of the Cotton Famine and had them
published in local newspapers and his focus was always the suffering of ordinary
people, often recognising the international cause of the deprivation. Whilst
ostensibly the function of this piece might be to maintain the workers’ faith in the
fact that the Famine will one day end, it can also be seen as an appeal to sympathy
and charity, in its descriptions of hardship. The detail in the first stanza of the
poor ‘pining’ in ‘cellars dark and lone’ may be domestically accurate, but it also
serves to indicate that there is much more suffering under the visible surface than
is at first evident. – SR.