The Lancashire Operative’s Hymn. By John Plummer.

From homes where hunger’s plaintive cries,
E’er strike our hearts with anguish dumb;
With falt’ring lips and tearful eyes,
To Thee, Oh! Lord, we trembling come;
Not for ourselves alone to plead,
But for the loved whome erst we fed; -
Oh! help us, Lord, in this own need,
And give to us our daily bread.
Be merciful, Oh! Lord.
We know that in life’s sunny day,
Too oft our hearts Thy name forgot;
That when our foolish souls did stray,
We saw Thy face but knew Thee not.
And now we crouch in grim [despair] ,
Our hearts and souls are filled with dread,
Hear Thou, O! Lord, our earnest prayer,
And give us our daily bread.
Be [merciful] , Oh! Lord.
Oft, day by day, we’ve battled sore
With sorrow, wretchedness, and pain;
Till, wearied, we could strive no more,
To rend the life-consuming chain.
Our cheeks are pale and worn with care,
And sadly droops each aching head; -
Oh! Lord, Thy rod of vengeance spare,
And give to us our daily bread.
Be [merciful] , Oh! Lord.
The winter comes with chilling frost,
With piercing blast, and blinding snow;
While we – like sheep on moorland lost –
In sadness wander to and fro.
In vain we try to hush the cries
Of infants waiting to be fed: -
Lord, yield to us Thy sympathies,
And give to us our daily bread.
Be merciful, Oh! Lord.
For we have learn’d to place our trust
In Thee, and in Thy boundless love;
We know that Thou art good and just,
And wilt Thy mercy to us prove.
And so we suffer and endure,
Nor murmur on our sleepless bed; -
For well we know that to the poor
Thou’lt kindly give their daily bread.
Be merciful, Oh! Lord.

Title:The Lancashire Operative's Hymn

Author:John Plummer

Publication:Preston Guardian

Published in:Preston

Date:Nov 22 1862

Keywords:hunger, poverty, religion


This poem of five nine-line stanzas is composed in iambic tetrameter with a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCD for the first eight lines in each stanza followed by a short line refrain of ‘Be merciful, Oh! Lord.’ The eighth line also repeats the ‘Give us our daily bread’ plea from ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ – a very common phrase used in Cotton Famine poetry and poetry related to poverty more widely. The hymnal form was a common trope in nineteenth-century poetry so this was not necessarily intended to be sung, though it might have been.

The poem’s language is obviously religious and the framing of it as a hymn indicates that the operative speaker is addressing the divine but there are several ways in which this functions socially. In common with Plummer’s other work the deprivations of the Cotton Famine are detailed but the fact that the speaker indicates that they are praying ‘not for ourselves’ (line 5) suggests not only that this is a collective address but that perhaps the real intended recipient of this plea is those able to give charity. This is might be supported by the theme of penitence for previous religious neglect in the second stanza. – SR.