Coals of Fire.
By a Lancashire Spinner.
“In sending food to the starving weavers of Lancashire, we are heaping coals of fire on the head of England.” – Speech at the Meeting of the New York Chamber of Commerce, Dec., 1862.

If heaping burning coals of fire,
On England’s head be your desire,
And coals of fire take form of victuals,
Vast be your furnaces and kettles;
Increased the number of your stokers,
And much enlarged the size of pokers.
Whate’er the motives be which led
Your generations hearts to send us bread,
Impulsive alms when freely given,
Are quite acceptable to heaven;
Money from unreflective sinners
Will give our wives and children dinners;
And charity, what heart can doubt it,
Excels philosophy without it.

Title:Coals of Fire


Publication:The Blackburn Standard

Published in:Blackburn

Date:Wednesday, January 21, 1863

Keywords:america, charity, domesticity, morality


Although written in iambic tetrameter and in rhyming couplets, this poem resembles an inverted Petrarchan sonnet in its shape, with the sestet above the octet rather than the other way round. Sonnets traditionally are used to convey a single idea and a development of it or response, albeit with room for twists and variations, and this is no exception in its response to a statement made across the Atlantic relating to American relief for Lancashire (see ‘The Coming of the Griswold’).

The sestet responds to the reported commentary by urging further American relief for Lancashire during the crisis, and the subsequent octet reflects that the effects of charity if whoever does the giving. – SR