His hand was on his brow; the diamond pane
Threw the red sunlight on the cottage floor;
The vine leaves glittering from an autumn rain,
Clustered in golden light the lattice o’er.
There hung the purple grape, too; but within
Lisette sat palely at her spinning frame,
A child was at her feet, who failed to win
His mother’s smile, yet prattled on the same.
Her husband’s brow was gloom – some passion strong
Stirred his true heart, and now he glanced at her,
As if impatient of the wearying whirr
Of those dull wheels, at which she sat so long.
No morning stroll of late, beside the brook,
When ‘cross its pools the careless line he threw;
No evening saunter with some charmed book,
As once her dear voice made all day dreams new.
Had he a rival? Nay, that spinning wheel
Were even worse; it quite absorbed her time –
To hear it, sooth! it made his senses reel,
For ever droning one perpetual rhyme!
And she grew pale, too; yes, and Herman strange, -
But he had other cause, as well she knew,
Last vintage was a failure, and the Grange
Fell in a tempest – and their rent was due!
Yes, due to-morrow; naught wherewith to pay;
He started up, he cried, “No more that whirl
I can endure, Lisette! O, put away
That droning, dismal wheel, we’re ruined, girl!”
She rose, she came, and o’er his arm she lean’t;
“Husband, that little reel has sung its song;
Bear with me, hark! It says, I never meant
To cast a gloom your gentle joys among;
“But trade was bad; short harvests ruin all,
And if I’ve kept you both too long apart,
Forgive me yet, my earnings were so small,
Yet aye, I trusted to the faithful heart.”
“The rent, the rent, Lisette – O, we must leave
Our humble home, its joys, so pure and real,
Friendless, condemned - ” “Nay, Herman, do not grieve.
One little friend is left, the spinning wheel.
“Friend to us both, our child, too – husband, see,”
Then from a purse about her neck, untied,
She laid the rent twice told upon his knee,
And stood beside him with a tearful pride.
That night they strolled the brook along, that night
The stars to them did brighter, purer seem;
The darkening dells were filled with shadowy light,
And her sweet voice of love enhanced the dream!

Title:The Spinning Frame


Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:28th June 1862

Keywords:poverty, spinning, work


This anonymous poem taken from the pages of the Liverpool Albion may not be set in UK, given that it mentions a vineyard, and failure of a vintage, but it possibly contains oblique references to the concerns of the Cotton Famine’s effect on the British textile industry. The husband is frustrated by his wife’s dedication to spinning, until it saves them from losing their home due to his business failing, and this may be an indirect comment on the reliance of the British economy on the cotton industry. – SR