A SPINDLE-SONG, FOR YE BOLD BRITON.
Some think it is Law that rules our land;
Law, and the popular British will;
But I know better; I understand
How the Cotton-King holds the upper hand,
For his Spindles are standing still!
You may talk of the Sceptre and the Crown,
You may prate of Government as you will;
But Buckingham Palace must knuckle down
To the Spindle-sceptres of Manchester town,
And they must not long stand still!
I know that the Rebels are knaves accurst;
I know their success would surely kill
The spirit of Right that should ever stand first
… Would ruin the Best and foster the Worst …
But … our Spindles are standing still!
I feel that the Slavish cause should fall;
That Freedom should sit on every hill;
That the sun of Truth should shine for all
(So we preach, at least, in Exeter Hall) ;
But … our Spindles must not stand still!
I know the Right as well as can be,
Yet pray, how can we its terms fulfil.
How speak out honest, earnest and free
In the name of Justice and Liberty,
When our Spindles are standing still!
So now, though I blush when I think how mean
Is the race that is ruled by the Cotton Mill,
From the lowest up to our gracious Queen,
We must wink at Secession … that beast unclean!
Till our Spindles no more stand still!
Title:A SPINDLE-SONG, FOR YE BOLD BRITON.
Publication:Vanity Fair (1859-1863)
Published in:New York
Keywords:industry, politics, war
This satirical poem from Vanity Fair, a New York magazine, depicts British dependence on the cotton trade as so all-consuming that it supersedes the centrality of other British institutions and values. ‘Buckingham Palace’ is used as metonym for British nobility, whilst ‘Exeter Hall’ (in London, not Exeter, where anti-slavery meetings were held in the run-up to British Abolition) is used as a metonym for British national morality. The latter is seen as compromised when British trade interests are threatens. – SR