The fisherman wades in the surges;
The sailors over the sea;
The soldier steps bravely to battle;
The woodman lays axe to the tree.
They are each of the breed of the heroes,
The manhood attempered in strife;
Strong hands, that go lightly to labour,
True hearts that take comfort in life.
In each is the seed to replenish
The world with the vigour it needs –
The centre of honest affections,
The impulse to generous deeds.
But the shark drinks the blood of the fisher;
The sailor is drowned in the sea;
The soldier lies cold by his cannon;
The woodman is crushed by his tree.
Each prodigal life that is wasted
In manly achievement unseen
But lengthens the day of the coward,
And strengthens the crafty and mean.
The blood of the noblest is lavished,
That the selfish a profit may find;
But God sees the lives that are squandered,
And we to His wisdom are blind.

Title:Squandered Lives

Author:Bayard Taylor

Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:22nd August 1863

Keywords:class, religion, work


Even in the midst of the highest levels of unemployment known in the region, the awareness of the misery of labour for many workers was present and this poem, which has an allegorical flavour to it, recounts examples. The fact that it focuses on the professions of fishermen, sailors, soldiers, and woodsmen, may implicitly suggest that industrial work, which was notorious for its high levels of injury and death of employees, was not the only dangerous profession. The sense of resignation here could be seen as a way of naturalising the harm that industry does to workers. – SR