With brow that’s furrowed with care,
And starv’d in a cold, damp shed,
With a brush in his hands a dresser stands,
Dressing away for his bread.
Brush! brush! brush!
And oh! what a wearisome “game”
While he grasps his sley, then gives it a push,
As he sings the Song of the Frame.
Piece! piece! piece!
‘Tis enough to make a man “coss;”
Piece! piece! piece!
For his warp’s all broken across,
With his old shirt sleeves all rent,
He’s a slave in all but name;
And his back is bent – he’s in punishment
As he sings the Song of the Frame.”
Brush! brush! brush!
In filthy smudge and dust.
Brush! brush! brush!
To earn for is children a crust.
He looks about for the ends that’s out,
For fear of the weaver’s blame;
Then with all is strength he turns on the length,
As he sings the Song of the Frame.
Turn! turn! turn!
Till the joints of his arms they all crack.
Turn! turn! turn!
>Till it brings a great pain in his back;
And all looks dim for his eyeballs swim
With his arms and legs both lame;
And a thousand ills attendeth him
Who sings the Song of the Frame.
Now, weavers, I pray you reflect
On this ere you stamp and go mad ---
Don’t charge the dresser with sheer neglect,
But merely say “it is bad;”
Just think of the hours of gloom
Of the dresser, whose only aim
Is to make the warp work well in the loom
While he sings the Song of the Frame.

Title:The Song of a Frame


Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:February 6, 1864

Keywords:family, gender, poverty, song, work


Published towards the end of the Cotton Famine, when peace in the American Civil war was in sight, this poem is a reminder that textile work is largely repetitive and back-breaking. It is unclear whether the subject of this poem is working in a mill or domestic set-up, but the task of brushing cotton was one of the least skilled and therefore least well-paid jobs in the cotton weaving process. However, songs were often sung by textile workers to the rhythms of their machines in order to pass the time and maintain morale, and this poem appears to reflect that practice. – SR