Sept 21st 1861 – The Mill Fiend

Come, let us go down from this weather-stained hill –
One, two, three, and away!
Go down to the hollow where glossy and still
The mill-race rolls over the wheels of the mill,
And its foam is the dew of the morning.
There are two bonny eggs in a nest on the hill –
One, two, three, and away!
One lies in the warmth of its mother-bed still,
But the other is rolling adown to the mil –
For the winds are so wild in the morning.
Two children are playing atop of the hill –
One, two, three, and away!
One clings to the peace of its infancy still,
But the other is off and away to the mill,
To see how it looks in the morning.
Two lovers are wed on [sic] the church on the hill –
One, two, three, and away!
She lights up his home, and is true to him still,
But he hurries down to the roar of the mill,
And thinks not of her or the morning.
Two weary wayfarers come over the hill –
One, two, three, and away!
One makes for the cottage that’s dear to him still,
But the other strides on to get work at the mill,
And stays not to look at the morning.
Two friends are in talk on the brow of the hill,
One, two, three, and away!
One sleeps, but the cool grass is over him still,
While the other is whirl’d round the pool of the mill,
And his corpse will float up in the morning.
Two spirits fly over the cross on the hill,
One, two, three, and away!
One stays there and prays there and watches there still,
And the other, who writhes in the teeth of the mill,
Is Lucifer, son of the morning.
- Once A Week ARTHUR J. MUNBY.

Title:The Mill Fiend

Author:Arthur J. Munby

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:Sept 21st 1861

Keywords:death, industry


This poem presented as in a song-like form by Arthur Munby contains the repeated refrain ‘one, two, three and away echoing the repetitive nature of work in textile mills. It appears to give a negative view of industrial work – suggesting that it detracts from domestic harmony, and is associated with early death. The piece is a reminder that while the threat of unemployment due to the Cotton Famine was unwelcome, many people found work in the mills arduous, dangerous and punishing. The reference to Lucifer in final stanza is a particularly strange and ominous effect. – SR