To The Lords Of Land, Mills, And Money.

SIR – I am not much addicted to letter writing, but these hard times will sharpen the sensibilities of any rustic, and if there be any merit in these lines pray print them, if your valuable, impartial, and out spoken paper and you will oblige one who has been fasting for lack of bread for a couple of days. – I remain yours, truly,


Woe! woe! to your revel and rout,
Ye men of the golden brain,
Who are scourged for your sins with the hideous gout,
Say, will you not need us again?
You water the streets, what for?
We fear not the dust, should it rise;
To nature’s acts we never demur,
But you fling the dust in our eyes.
Yea, you swill the streets from the spring,
You had better be [carting] bread;
And drown the knell of the passing-bell,
Tolling some starveling is dead.
You care not for [starving] worth,
‘Tis as nauseous to your nose
As the [moth] that rusts, or the dust of the earth
That spoil your princely clothes.
The penniless poor are used up,
For ‘tis you who have taken the grist;
And you give them far the bitterest cup,
When your overseer tells them to “list.”
We have toiled for the knaves, it is true,
Who have left us but empty dishes;
And who can say but they may yet rue,
Who have stolen the “loaves and fishes.”
Give golden ware to the “roughs,”
Dead [shots] of the hearthstone braves ---
Give silver trowels to civic muffs,
But what do you give to your slaves?
They hatch you your golden eggs,
And they spin you the fibre fine
For the trellis and frills round your dear one’s legs
And their air-blown crinoline.
Woe! woe! to your revel and rout,
Ye lords of the earth and the main;
Ye may wallow in mire like a herd of swine,
But you’re certain to need us again.

Title:To the Lords of Land, Mills, and Money


Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:October 8, 1864

Keywords:politics, poverty, radical, slavery, work


This poem is arranged with nine quatrains written with alternating rhymes, and it also alternates different types of three-beat patterns in its metre. Sometimes these are anapaests, sometimes dactyls, and sometimes these are preceded by upbeats (anacrusis) – (The penniless poor are used up, / For ‘tis you who have taken the grist; / And you give them far the bitterest cup, / When your overseer tells them to “list.”)

One of the interesting things about this poem is that its author takes on the personification of ‘STARVATION’ as a nom de plume, endeavouring to encapsulate the voice of those suffering most in the Cotton Famine. Of course, memories of the Irish Famine of the 1840s would still have been fresh for many people, and indeed some Irish workers had settled in Lancashire precisely because of that disaster. This is a relatively rare example of a Cotton Famine poem which contains explicit class antagonism and real political anger. Like ‘A Batchelor’s Fancy’, it is quite direct in its targets, and seeks to highlight a pre-existing economic and social inequality in society.

- SR.