A right happy man is the workman;
No lurker is he,
But a worker is he,
He works and he sings,
And his earnings he brings
To his wife, who is worthy the workman.
A true, loving wife has the workman,--
She prepares him his meals,
And she tenderly feels
For her offspring around,
Who with pleasure will bound,
At the sound of the foot of the workman.
Rests awhile after dinner the workman,
Feels a calm inward bliss,
Gives his baby a kiss,
Then off to his work,
And works like a Turk,
And at night, sleeps soundly the workman.
A right thinking man is the workman;
As he works he can think,
With his head free from drink;--
Happy with thinking,
Free from habits of drinking;
A right sober man is the workman.
He envies no man, the true workman;
He laughs at the “snobs,”
With watches in fobs;
Who fob themselves up,
That they are the “nobs,”
But are nought when compared with the workman.
A right honest man is the workman:--
Always ready to pay,
Without any delay;
With happiness conjugal,
The wife she is frugal,
And pulls the same way with her workman.
In his leisure at home, the good workman
Takes his babe on his lap,
And with loving pretence,
Says he’ll give it a slap;
But the babe with its sense,
Only laughs and crows at the workman.
The children, the wife and the workman;
On Sundays take walks,
And he lovingly talks
Of revering the power
That produces the flower;
A true pious heart has the workman.
Time never hangs on the workman;
His mind’s well employed,
His meals well enjoyed;
If amusement he needs,
Something pleasant he reads,
When to bed have been got the young workmen.
Plies her needle, the wife of the workman;
While stockings she darns,
She can listen to “yarns.”
Looking up between whiles,
She lovingly smiles,
As her glances meet those of her workman.



Publication:Todmorden Times

Published in:Todmorden


Keywords:class, domesticity, industry


This anonymous poem celebrates a secular social morality related to ideas of ‘honest industry’. The roles of the figures in the poem are heavily gendered in such a way that does not really reflect the reality of manual employment in the north of England at the time, when many women worked in factories and mills. However, poems such as this appeared to encourage a ‘manly’ ideal of industry, with a sense of responsibility and domestic and social purpose. Todmorden, situated in the Pennines between Burnley and Halifax, was perhaps not quite as reliant as some other towns on cotton, as wool manufacture was also important. Indeed, Todmorden Town Hall reflects the two textile industries in a frieze on its front as half depicts the production of cotton, and half the production of wool. Nevertheless, this region on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire (Todmorden was quite recently and controversially re-designated as a Yorkshire town) would have been affected by the blockade, and this poem possibly serves to encourage self-worth and discourage idleness in the face of increasing unemployment at the beginning of the Cotton Famine. – SR