An Appeal From Coventry

Once on a time when Coventry
Was pinched by want and broken down;
A lady of her charity;
Her suffering people’s help to be
Rode naked through the town –
And while that town preserves its name,
‘Tis linked with fair Godiva’s fame.
And now poor Coventry must pray,
A second time for woman’s aid –
Ladies in whom our trust we lay,
We do not ask of you to-day
The sacrifice she made –
Not wearing less but wearing more
Will grant the favour we implore.
The ribbons which our statesmen bear,
Tell but of royal honours shed –
The ribbons English ladies wear,
Are symbols now of lightened care -
Of hungry children fed,
New grace to woman’s charms impart,
And brighten many a hearth and heart!

Title:An Appeal From Coventry


Publication:The Bradford Observer

Published in:Bradford

Date:January 10th 1861



This poem, taken from the Porcupine magazine and published before the outbreak of the American Civil War and the ensuing Cotton Famine, provides an example of the type of poetry being composed in the early 1860s whose function was to encourage charity. Like so many Cotton Famine poems which came shortly after, this piece appeals directly to women to organise aid, and references a particular type of civic pride, in this case the legend of ‘Lady Godiva’ riding naked through the city on a white horse. Perhaps poignantly, this poem refers to a more general downturn in the economy which affected cities like Coventry which were heavily dependent on manufacturing for their survival. Of course, the magnitude of the subsequent Cotton Famine overshadowed the scale of this earlier recession. – SR