The Lancashire Wail.

’Twas first a man’s unheeded moan,
A child or woman’s feeble cry;
But groan was added unto groan,
And wail on wail rose far and near,
Until the heart stood still to hear
The breathings of that agony.
A waste in Eblis wide and dim,
Where forms like spectres touched our feet,
And beckoning on the horizon’s rim;
Forms, cold and pale as wintry sleet,
That weeping uttered, on bent knees,
Sounds loud but awful as the seas.
On smokeless town and silent marts,
The Lord looks down through good men’s eyes,
And the warm breath of human sighs
Thaws the hard ice about our hearts.
Our brother’s cry, though low and soft
And faint, through heart-consuming dearth,
Is by the angels borne aloft,
And mounted on the rushing winds;
Its wandering echoes echo finds,-
The utmost corner of the earth,
Where the pine forest’s pointed spears
Rise glistening o’er Canadian snow;
The exiled Saxon stops and hears
The mourning in this house of woe.
Passing the spicy groves that gird
The palace in the golden East,
There, like a spectre’s moan, ‘tis heard,
Hushing the laughter at the feast.
It travels on the airy tide
That cools old Afric’s scorched rocks,
Seeking the heart that beasts beside
The camp-fire and the slumbering ox;
Or, speeding onward and afar,
It pleads – a whispering mercy – where
The lone Australian tends his flocks.
Anon the steersman o’er the wave,
The dusky stoker on the line,
All soiled and stained with dust and brine,
They, like God’s angels, fly to save.
Love’s gathered offerings, freely given,
On the wide hungry desert meet,
And, falling at the sufferer’s feet,
Seem like the manna dropp’d from heaven.
Fate’s deadliest shafts not oft shall reach,
Or, reaching, wound not as before;
Whom in sore trials, love shall teach
The brotherhood of rich and poor.
As oft from plants of bitter root
We gather life-sustaining fruit,
As oft from evil comes forth good,
So our glad eyes may yet survey,
O’er troubled waters red with blood,
The sunrise of that peaceful day
That bard and prophet long foresaw:
The day when tenderest cords shall draw
Helpfull and helpless man to man;
When sceptred love shall give the law,
And wisdom her best service yield,
Till both, on some diviner plan,
The fallen and ruined world rebuild.

Title:The Lancashire Wail


Publication:The Bradford Observer

Published in:Bradford

Date:Wednesday, January 29, 1863

Keywords:family, morality, poverty, religion


This poem begins with two sestet stanzas but then presents much longer line groupings. Similarly, although almost every line end connects to another rhyme as such, and there is a general tendency towards alternating rhymes, in truth there is no set rhyme scheme, and the poem retains a conversational seriousness because of this. The line lengths are very static, with almost all of them consisting of iambic tetrameter.

The poem is expansive in its geographical imagery and seeks to set the troubles in Lancashire in their global context. The language is formal and quite religious in its imagery, but the beginning of the piece emerges from a localised auditory effect. This relates the poem to others in the collection which feature ‘cry’, ‘appeal’, ‘song’, or ‘petition’ in their titles, suggesting that there is a general effort with Lancashire Cotton Famine poetry to provide a voice for the suffering people of the region within the context of newspaper publication.

- SR.