Father Christmas approaches, and bright as of old,
With a beautiful smile on his face;
And a garment of glory his form doth enfold,
With ineffable grandeur and grace.
His locks they are silvery, sweet is his voice,
And his cheeks they are ruddy as morn;
His happy eyes beam as he bids us rejoice:
Let us pledge him in Plenty’s full horn!
Ah! did I say plenty? What plenty have we,
Poor Lancashire lads of the mill?
Our plenty the rich people’s bounty must be,
Since the spindle and shuttle are still.
But kind Father Christmas will open the hearts
Of the men who have money to spare,
When they witness the looks which his loving eye darts
On the poor in their present despair.
The box and the bay, and the ivy and yew,
The holly and laurel combined,
With their leaves intertangled around his brave brow,
In a coronal wreath are entwined.
Let us herald him in with a song and a feast,
To the sons of Old England so dear;
Let us slay on his alter the bird and the beast;
Let us crown him the King of the Year!
Within the loved circle, where flashes the blaze
Of the yule fire, flickering bright,
Let us honour his presence with plays and with lays
Through the merry mid-winter’s night.
Remembering the absent with love on our lips,
While the wine-cup and wassail go round;
Be our toast, “Britain’s sun without cloud or eclipse!”
And let freedom and frolic abound.
May the poor meet with plenty – the rich never rue;
For the bounty they choose to bestow
Will be given to God. Tis a debt ever due,
Which the wealthy to want ever owe.
Yes; let us still live, and indulge the dear hope
That the great and the good of our land
Will for their benevolence find such a scope,
That a feast for the poor will be planned.
Then shall we rejoice! with a jubilant voice
Let the cot and the castle both ring;
For the bounties of heaven as truly were given
For the toiler, as kaiser or king.
Publication:The Lancaster Gazette
Date:December 27th 1862
This poem figures the spirit of charity during the Cotton Famine through the character of Father Christmas. It is written by William Billington, the Blackburn poet more famous for his rich dialect verse. Billington was deeply connected with the ‘Distress’, having been made unemployed from textile work at its beginning before becoming one of its main poetic chroniclers. Eventually Billington made enough money from his writing to buy a public house in the centre of his home town, and this became an important literary hub. – SR