ON THE WASTE.
Title:On the Waste
Publication:The Bolton Chronicle
Date:February 15th 1862
Keywords:poverty, religion, war
This poem by an unknown author is regular in its form, with four equal stanzas each comprised of 9 lines. The rhyme scheme is heavily influenced by the accent of the author; words such as “gloom” and “home” appear to be false rhymes, however the established rhyme scheme of ABABDDEEG as suggested by other stanzas indicates the poet’s intention to rhyme. It is also noteworthy that each ninth line rhymes, continuing the rhyme from “relief” through to “belief” and linking each stanza and the plight of the three figures to the speaker’s conclusion in the final verse.
The theme of hardship and the role which religious belief plays is reflected on by the poet, who employs the extended metaphor of three characters crossing a tempestuous moorland: the impoverished young boy, the noble soldier, and finally the humble priest. The speaker narrates an almost dream-like vision of meeting with these three figures during a storm, and in the fourth and final stanza speaks directly to them referring to them as “three pilgrims of the wilderness”. What is evident by the last stanza is that the poem is proposing the importance of upholding one’s faith during difficult times, and it is therefore a morale boosting call to those suffering the repercussions of the Cotton Famine. The unknown poet does not use their work to place blame or even necessarily lament the situation as many other Cotton Famine poets did, but rather views the hardships as an opportunity to profess the true force of religious faith, both at an individual level and equally as a united community.
Elena Browning, University of Exeter