Old Shuttle sat earning his dinner, one day,
In a delf, breaking stones, to improve the highway;
For power-looms were idle, and engines were still,
And things all looked badly, and times threatened ill.
But yet, on the ear of a listener there smote,
“Twixt the raps of his hammer, a musical note:
Sang he, - “ ’Midst the gloom let us cherish the joy;
It’s a poor heart that never rejoices, old boy.
“Why sink under trouble? Why cower in dread?
For crying brings nought; and the wise man has said,
That the sluggard’s a coward, and’s frightened to meet
The lion of care when he prowls through the street.
Nay, rather, like Samson, the strong man of old,
On the mane of the raging beast let us seize hold,
Let us slay him, and leave him, and keep on our way,
And hope to draw life from our trouble, some day.”
A brave English heart has old Shuttle, methinks;
A hand that loves labour; a will that ne’er shrinks;
A vision that pierces the storm’s gloomy shade,
And sees the All-Loving, and trusts in his aid, -
Still singing – “ ’Midst gloom we can cherish the joy;
It’s a poor heart that never rejoices, old boy.”
Let us echo this chorus, and join hand to hand,
’Till the black cloud of sorrow rolls off this fair land.
Author:W. F. M.
Publication:The Blackburn Standard
Date:Wednesday, July 09, 1862
Though no musical accompaniment is suggested, this poem by an unknown poet, “W.F.M”, seems designed to be sung, not least because of its cheery tone. It tells the story of a weaver, “old Shuttle”, forced by poverty to break stone for a living. Stone-breaking, like oakum-picking, was associated with the labour test imposed upon poor men seeking relief, in order to determine that they were willing to work. In spite of the hard labour, and a situation that might well have been deemed shameful by contemporaries, the weaver remains optimistic, trusting in God and accepting of his lot. – RM.