Daughter of no purse proud, high, blood-born earl,
Nobler in attributes, though not a pearl
Illumes thy coronal, or fashion’s whirl
Bewilders much thy soul, nor artful curl
Of daily dressing maid’s most classic twirl
Sublimes thy glory; my factory girl.
Spinstress of a double thread; still entwine
Earth’s gossamer, each twist will intertwine
Affection’s cordage, human and divine.
So myriads of filaments combine
A moral network, grander in design
Than e’er was drawn from august empress’ shine.
Syren toiler; though unembalm’d thy name
In orphan childhood’ dreams of future fame
Through Morphean telescope, the winding frame,
And thee, chief sylph of winders’ elvin game,
I’ve watched with half-orbed eyes thy lofty aim
To live by toil-earn’d independence claim.
Youthful reminiscence of thy career
Could ne’er withhold the tributary tear,
Whilst bending o’er the bobbin chiffonier.
Exhausting, still exhaustless; task most drear
Was thine; and mine, to fill with latent fear,
Lest thou should get behind; I’d oft appear,
And helpmate thee, till doffer’s call was near.
Webstress of twofold webs, now, and for aye,
Life’s true ideal warp weave, weave away;
The other threads thou weav’st must soon array
Butterflies human, who by night and day,
Flutter with worse than borrow’d wings astray
Through pageant haunts of adulatory gay.
Goddess of my life’s e’er changing scene,
Although thy vesture dazzles not with sheen
Of satinette, or brocade of brightest green,
Nor on thy toil-steep’d fingers can be seen
Circlets of massive gold, or gems of rarest mien,
Yet higher graced is the factory queen.
Watchers of circling, irksome, oblong reel,
Thine ever-active hands, and heartfelt zeal
Bring comfort, ease, and wealth for others’ weal,
Whilst devotees of av’rice fierce would steal
Fair flowers from thy cheek, them to reveal
In draper’s windows, with low price fixed seal,
Could I but win a sceptre, they should feel
The full force of thy sinless soul’s appeal.
Who can full duly estimate thy worth,
The labour products spreading o’er the earth?
Whilst destin’d oft to feel most poignant dearth
Of nature’s sternest needs, with seeming mirth
Struggling ‘midst hosts of cares, sore sorrow’s girth
Restores thy vestal hopes of the new birth.
Bright hopes, strong faith, pure aspirations too,
If bible-glowing promises are true,
All tribulation pangs must soon subdue.
Thy pleasures ‘mongst the pleasure tribes are few,
Thy velvet cheeks have lost their rosy hue,
But cleanse thy soul with distill’d Hermon dew
And thy fair features, at Christ’s next review
Shall bloom with radiance, ever, ever, new;
Matured beauty, for seraph world to view;
Heaven’s spangling glories must be thy due,
Then, worker, faint not, but virtue’s paths pursue.

Title:To the Factory Girl

Author:Ambrose Tomlinson

Publication:Rochdale Pilot

Published in:Rochdale

Date:May 17 1862

Keywords:class, gender, work


This highly metaphorical poem by Ambrose Tomlinson is written in an unusual form, with each stanza, some of them quite long, consisting of monorhymes. The poem addresses a female textile factory worker, but in lofty language and with an excess of classical references. There is much use made of the metaphorical possibilities of the actions of spinning and weaving, and it is possible that there is a reference to the Cotton Famine in the last stanza, there is certainly a mention of the global trade in textile goods. – SR