“Oh, Ring The Factory Bell!”

[Suggested by a conversation with an operative out of employ.]

Oh! ring again that factory bell,
That once awoke the morn;
I used to hate that slumber-knell,
And deem my lot forlorn,
But now I listen for that sound,
The hours I vainly tell,
And think what joy would spread around,
To hear the factory bell.
I sit and look into the grate,
White ashes cold lie there;
One shelf contains an empty plate,
And all the rest are bare.
A broken box is now my seat,
Our chairs we’re forced to sell;
And sold are all my pictures neat –
Oh! ring that factory bell!
We reared a rose, my wife and I;
‘Twas on our wedding day;
We brought it; she wept bitterly
To see it ta’en away.
The books, too, I had read to her,
When all seemed bright and well,
Go, one by one, ‘tis hard to bear –
Oh! ring that factory bell.
I see my children day by day
Grow paler and more sad,
And look quite faint amidst their play –
It almost drives me mad.
My wife stands sighing at the door,
I see her bosom swell,
And find her tear-drops on the floor –
Oh! ring that factory bell!

Title:Oh, Ring The Factory Bell

Author:J. B. L.

Publication:Preston Guardian

Published in:Preston

Date:May 17 1862

Keywords:pawn, poverty, unemployment, unemployment, work


These four eight-line stanzas, each with the rhyme scheme ABABCDCD, are composed in strict ballad metre – alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter. Whether or not this was, as suggested, inspired by a conversation with an out-of-work mill operative, the poem inhabits the voice of a worker describing their state of poverty and comparing it to his pre-Famine situation. The stanzas respectively discuss industrial, domestic, marital, and paternal worries and the sixth line of each stanza ends with an ‘-ell’ sound to rhyme with the final titular line which acts as a refrain.

One of the interesting things about this poem is that it articulates a commonly reported attitude amongst Lancastrian workers in that the Cotton Famine encouraged them to appreciate their former status as relatively well-off industrial employees. In any case there was very little social or industrial unrest during the Famine and this positive attitude contributed to the political arguments which led to the first enfranchisement of some male workers through the 1867 Second Reform Act. – SR.