Woe-begone and weak, and thinly clad,
Struggling o'er the moorland through the gloom,
Why should one to innocent and sad
Rove so late, on such an eve, from home;
Then - it was a child who did reply –
“One is left at home, about to die;
Nothing of the rain, and nought of wind
Makes me chill, while on I haste, to find
Aid and relief.”
Proud rode by, upon his horse all fire,
Soldier, glorious in array to see,
Swart his lip, his eyes astir with fire:
Why so fierce, in such lone place is he?
Then, with anger tossed upon the wind,
Swore the knight, “My comrade is maligned;
What care I for wine-cup on the road?
What care I for miscreant foes abroad,
Who seek one thief?”
Both have passed, ; the pale and weary child,
Next, the man of war; and, darker brown,
Lo! on pool and toft of heather wild.
How the storm from heaven is bursting down! Now, a barefoot priest, the weltering moss.
Will despite of night and tempest, cross.
“Stay me not, but Benedicite,
With a smile and panting voice, says he,
“There visiteth grief.”
O three pilgrims of the wilderness
Where love starves and beauty chills to death;
I think how each takes part in some distress,
Old as earth, the eternal Heaven beneath;
Therefore child, and therefore soldier brave. Therefore priest, whose cell is nigh his grave,
Love, ye three who cross the moor by night,
All who brave its hardships in the might
Of true belief.

Title:On the Waste


Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

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