The metal sleeps in its hidden vein,
The blue-eyed flax waves over the plain,
The silk-worm spins on the mulberry-leaf;
Days are spinning their joy and grief.
Threads are a-twining, manifold,
Of flax, hemp, cotton, and silk, and gold;
For joyous Beauty, for Soldier proud,
For work-dress, cable, halter, and shroud.
From fields of sense, and mines of thought,
Threads of life are twisted and wrought;
We are weaving Character, weaving Fate,
And Human History, little and great.
This is worth noting: wit’s controll’d by dulness; [sic]
The deepest thought can scarce be said in fullness;
Elixir to the blood of two or three,
Poison to lives of common men ‘twould be.
Earth’s night is where she rolls
In her own shade;
And even thus the Soul’s
Dark hour is made.
O Heroes, ye comfor[t] my brotherly heart!
O Scoundrels, too often with you is my part!
A man who keeps a diary pays
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful, then
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less
Of fullness than of emptiness.
In a deeper sense than the common
A skeleton typifies Death,
Death being the bones of a fact,
Wanting the blood and the breath.
Virtue’s Toleration
Is sweet as flowers in May;
Vice’s Toleration
Has a perfume of decay.
- Macmillan’s Magazine, for September.



Publication:The Bolton Chronicle

Published in:Bolton

Date:August 29th 1863

Keywords:morality, work


This ambiguous and metaphorical anonymous poem appears to be both a celebration and a lament for the hardships caused by the textile industry. Towards the end of the piece a moral element is introduced which is perhaps a commentary on the pressures of urban existence exacerbated by the industrial system. There is certainly an opposition created between the bucolic rural imagery of the beginning of the poem and the ‘poison to the lives of common men’. The poem reminds us that the tension between modern and traditional idealisms still existed even as the cotton industry was effectively almost shut down for several years. – SR