Song For The Times.

When erst the isle of Britain,
Emerged from ocean’s wave,
The Gods, in conclave sitting,
To man this order gave –
Go fill these rugged valleys
With homes of honest worth,
And make the soil, by constant toil,
The richest spot on earth.
And turn the humming spindle,
And dig the gloomy mine,
And clothe earth’s teeming millions
In garments new and fine:
Then break the chains of serfdom,
The captive slave set free,
And witness give, how men can live
In light and liberty.
Thus spoke the Gods in session:
And shall a stupid clan –
Shall Tory retrogression
Defeat this Godlike plan?
Now, by St. George, our patron –
Till all shall have their due –
We’ll stand for right, in freedom’s fight,
Like Britons good and true.
Up! up! then, men of Britain;
This work you have to do:
Remember what is written –
Go meet your ancient foe.
By Cromwell and by Milton,
By Pym and Hampden, too,
We’ll join with Bright in freedom’s fight,
And rout the tyrant crew.

Title:Song For The Times.

Author:J. Clarkson

Publication:The Bradford Observer

Published in:Bradford

Date:April 25th 1861

Keywords:industry, politics, slavery


This kind of partisan political comment in verse became relatively infrequent in the subsequent years of the Cotton Famine as a temporary political consensus was reached but this poem, published just at the beginning of the outbreak of the American Civil War, celebrates the British landscape and industry, particularly the textile industries of the north with a particularly anti-Tory message. It supports the free trade policies of John Bright MP (1811-89), but also notes his abolitionist work, suggesting sympathy with the Union on the part of the writer. The invocation of Cromwell and Milton and John Pym and John Hampden as major figures of the English Civil War make this a particularly radical text in its implicit threat. – SR