Hard Times.
By John Plummer.

(Originally published during the Commercial Panic of 1857-8.)

From o’er the broad Atlantic wave
A note of terror comes;
Which brings despair to English hearts,
And dearth to English homes.
Our mills are closed, our Looms are still,
Our engines silent rust,
Our massive bales of wares are left
To moulder in the dust;
While pallid forms, with aching hands,
Press close their fever’d brow;
For evil days are drawing near –
God help the workmen now!
With foodless shelves, with fireless grates,
We scarce know whence to turn;
There is no work, we must forgo
The bread we fain would earn.
With gloomy thoughts our souls are rife,
Dark scowls each anxious eye;
We cannot see our children pale
In silence, starve, and die!
Though – far more blest than we – they leave
A world where we must bow, -
For evil days are drawing near –
God help the workman now!
Oh, ye who roll in luxury,
Ye lords of gold and land,
Of your excess a portion spare
To feed the famished band.
The earth is God’s. Its fullness fair
For all was sure ordain’d;
Beware! lest ye a sin commit,
And die with conscience stain’d.
Men, rather take the better path,
And Want with help endow;
For God will bless the kindly hearts
That help the workman now!
The above piece having attracted the notice of Mrs. Gladstone, the lady of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the organist of Hawarden Church has written to Mr. Plummer, “The Kettering Factory Operative,” for permission to set it to music, when it will be sung at a concert to be given under the special patronage of Mrs. Gladstone, for the benefit of the Distress Fund.

Title:Hard Times

Author:John Plummer

Publication:The Blackburn Standard

Published in:Blackburn

Date:Wednesday, November 05, 1862

Keywords:america, class, domesticity, poverty, religion, work


As the note at the beginning of this poem explains, the “Hard Times” referred to within came some four years prior to the Cotton Famine, following a financial crisis in the United States. The Commercial Panic offered an early indication of the dangers of global economic interconnectedness, and Britain in particular suffered a financial panic and manufacturing depression as a result. The opening lines of the poem, which refer to ‘terror’ from ‘o’er the broad Atlantic wave’ make the poem similarly applicable to the Cotton Famine, with the result of American events again being manufacturing stoppages, unemployment, and poverty. Like many Cotton Famine poems, “Hard Times” first paints a picture of poverty and then appeals to better-off citizens for relief, again making the poem suitable for adaptation for the Cotton Famine relief effort. – RM.