LET poets sing of battles fought,
Exulting high the warrior’s name, --
Of men, with reeking swords, who wrote
Their names upon the page of fame –
Men who have braved the cannon’s roar,
And put to fight true freedom’s foes,
And then, on a far distant shore,
Have fallen in their country’s cause.
Such deeds deserve the patriot’s praise,
They nobly claim a hero's name,
And, like the sun’s meridian rays,
Our love and admiration claim;
And yet ‘tis not the warrior’s deeds
That is alone the theme of song,
Although he for his country bleeds,
“Defending right, avenging wrong.”
The miners in yon dismal dell;
The sowers of the golden corn;
The smith, who forged yon silvery bell
That wakes from sleep the dreary morn;
The hardy pioneers, who fought
With pen and tongue with demon wrong,
With slavery sold and freedom bought;
Such glorious deeds inspire my song.
The man who glories in the right; ---
In honest toil ‘neath virtues wing;
He struggles hard from morn till night,
And calmly bears affliction’s sting
To get the needful things of life,
And nobly thus he battles through
The falls and bruises of the strife;
Methinks that man’s a hero too.
Blackburn, March 11th, 1863. RICHARD RAWCLIFFE.


Author:Richard Rawcliffe

Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:March 21, 1863

Keywords:gender, slavery, war, work


This poem by Richard Rawcliffe celebrates the achievements of ordinary workers rather than the traditional military hero and makes references to the heroism of overcoming domestic tribulations. Poems such as this which valorised work and workers were common during the Victorian period generally but gained particular currency during the Cotton Famine as a means of combatting the lack of self-belief and pride that many suffered in the face of short hours and unemployment caused by the crisis. There is an interesting reference to the abolition of slavery here in the third stanza and a suggestion that slavery will be defeated by ideas promulgated by writers rather than military means. – SR