The Lancashire Operative’s Hymn. By John Plummer.
Title:The Lancashire Operative's Hymn
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.