When from the great Creators’ hand,
In order and in wisdom planned,
Heaven’s countless orbs come forth,
In the world’s earliest infancy,
It was His will man’s lot should be
To toil upon this earth,
The mandate ran – “A worker, thou,
Go! – in the moisture of thy brow,
And quell the stubborn soil.
Whate’er thy hand shall find to do,
Be strong, be stedfast, and be true,
And I will bless thy toil.”
And, strong in heart, and strong in hand,
Man wander’d forth upon the land,
Its teeming breast to till;
‘Till earth, and sea, and wind, and flame,
And light, and heat, and cold, became
The vassals of his will.
“Tis but to gaze around to see
How nobly, man, his destiny
Has laboured to fulfil.
How time, in each succeeding age,
Has left fresh records on his page
Of man’s triumphant skill.
The wise, the wealthy, and the great,
Let these adorn their high estate,
And do the good they can;
And high and low, and rich and poor,
Learn, that to labour and endure,
Gives dignity to man.
That when, at last, the time shall come,
When Man is summon’d to his home,
And all beneath the sun
Shall, like a pageant, vanish, all!
Each man – ‘tis writ – must stand or fall
As he his work has done.
Silently, silently,
Fades the day’s light;
Stealthily, stealthily,
Creeps on the night.
Lay down the hammer,
And silence the mill;
Rest for the weary ones!
Respite for skill!
Sometimes in sickness,
Sometimes in pain,
Working, still working,
That others may gain;
Sometimes in weariness,
Sometimes in grief –
Grudge not the weary ones
Slumber’s relief!
Sleep! blessed harbinger
Thou, of that rest
Hereafter, in Heav’n,
Reserved for the bless’d!
Where neither labour,
Nor sorrow nor pain,
Shall harass those weary ones
Ever again.
All honour to the working man,
Who worketh “with a will,”
With energy, and industry,
With cunning, and with skill.
Seen or unseen of any man,
Be it with head or hand,
Who knows his work is fair and true,
And knows that it will stand.
All honour to the working man,
Who worketh “with his might,”
In patience, and in honesty,
At what he knows is right;
Whose life, though pass’d in poverty,
Will bear the light of day,
Nor fears his works should follow him,
Die when or where he may.


Author:W. H. Bellamy

Publication:The Blackburn Times

Published in:Blackburn

Date:October 22nd 1864

Keywords:industry, moral, religion


These three poems by W. H. Bellamy all centre around the subject of work with particular emphasis on industry. They celebrate work as dignifying and also religiously apposite, and the grouping of the poems through the subthemes of work, rest and rejoicing serves to conflate religious and industrial practice. Perhaps the most striking suggestion here is that the amount and quality of work done in one’s lifetime will be accounted for in the afterlife; that each ‘must stand or fall / As he his work has done’. Poems which encouraged and valorised hard work were not unusual throughout the Victorian period but we have found a greater occurrence of poems of this nature appeared in Lancashire newspapers towards the end of the Cotton Famine. The fear was that the economy, and indeed the social fabric, would suffer if workers could not re-adjust to the new industrial landscape once cotton imports returned from America. Many workers had to learn new skills and there was also a fear that those reduced to poverty would become acclimatised to cultures of indolence. – SR