Wasted Time

Alone in the dark and silent night,
With a heavy thought of a vanished year,
When evil deeds come back to sight,
And good deeds rise with a welcome cheer;
Alone with the spectress of the past,
That come with the old year’s dying chime,
There glooms one shadow dark and vat,
The shadow of Wasted Time.
The chance of happiness cast away,
The opportunities never sought,
The good resolves that every day
Have died in the impotence of thought;
The slow advance and the backward step
In the rugged path we have striven to climb;
How they furrow the brow and pale the lip,
When we talk with the Wasted Time.
Where are we now? What had we been
Had we hoarded time as the miser’s gold,
Striving our need to win,
Through the summer’s heat and the winter’s cold,
Shrinking from nought that the world could do;
Fearing nought but the touch of crime;
Labouring, struggling, all seasons through,
And knowing no Wasted Time.
Who shall recall the vanished years?
Who shall hold back this ebbing tide
That leaves us remorse, and shame, and tears,
And washes away all thigs beside?
Who shall give us the strength e’en now,
To leave forever this holiday rhyme,
To shake off this sloth from heart and brow,
And battle with Wasted Time?
The years that pass come not again,
The things that die no life renew;
But e’en from the rust of his cankering chain
A golden truth is glimmering through;
That to him who learns from errors past,
And turns away with strength sublime,
And makes each year outdo the last,
There is no Wasted Time.

Title:Wasted Time


Publication:Stockport and Cheshire County News

Published in:

Date:July 4th 1863

Keywords:industry, unemployment


Although there is no direct reference to the Cotton Famine this poem’s theme would have been familiar with many readers and its publication context reminds us that the effects of the Distress reached beyond Lancashire into regions such as Cheshire and West Yorkshire. The latter area is where Bradford is situated, and though West Yorkshire was dependent on the wool industry as well, it also contained many mills affected by the cotton shortage – Hebden Bridge, for example, relied almost entirely on the production of fustian, which was made from cotton. It is possible to read the last lines of the poem as an encouragement to the unemployed that life can still be fulfilling outside of the workplace, a sentiment which obviously resonates for many in the post-Covid world. – SR