IN TWO VOLUMES.
ELLIOTT, the Corn Law Rhymer, the great poet
of English artisans, I take for the subject of the present discourse.
My office here is not that of a political economist, but that of a
literary critic. My office is to consider rather the poetic genius of my author,
than his commercial philosophy. The poetry
of Elliott will remain, when the laws against which he so vehemently
inveighed will have passed away into the tranquil records of remoter
history, and his manly verses will hold a life which in every age the brave and
the struggling will recognize and feel. The legislation of Athenians in relation
to Macedon has long been silent, but not so the voice of Demosthenes. That rings
upon the air of immortality, and in its solemn tones it sounds along from
century to century. And the poet is not of weaker or shorter life than the
orator. He too will be heard, when the things which aroused his soul shall be
known no more. Death quickly unnerves the arm of Köerner, but all ages will
sing his "Song of the Sword." The character of Napoleon is fast going
to the calm meditation of philosophy and history, but it is with the passion of
enthusiasm that French patriots will always chant the burning lyrics of Berenger. The Scots have long since ceased to fight with the Saxons, but through all the
future it is in sadness they will pour forth "The Lament on Flodden
Field," and in ecstasy "The Ode on Bannockburn." Party politics
lose their importance, temporary laws become obsolete; yet if they enkindle the
heart of a true poet into a burst of noble song, it continues imperishable in
its melody and its strength.
Elliott is an English operative, poetically developed. Let me briefly
specify what an English operative is, of ordinary development. The English
operative embodies a very decisive form of the English character. He is not
speculative, but practical. He is not versatile, but skilful. His sphere is not
a large one, but within it he is a master. He is attached to order; he is
trained to order, both as a workman and a citizen. Even in revolt, he acts
according to a law. He is patient, but not servile. He bears inevitable
misfortunes manfully; in the best condition he is sure to grumble, but in the
worst he disdains to whine. He is not without aspiration. He is not insensible
to dignity; and by many an effort and many a virtue, he makes good a title to
nature's nobility. He has much pride of nation. If he glories in nothing else,
he glories in his country. Discontented he may be with his rulers, but he is
always proud of England. By a generalization, satisfactory at least to himself,
he identifies the greatness of England with the power of his own order. The
operative classes, in his view, have rendered her the paragon of nations. By
them, the earth and the sea are hers, the riches of the mine, and the treasures
of the deep. Through the means, he considers, of the operative classes, England
governs widely, and governs afar; gains her victories, and maintains her
dominion. The English mechanic, even when wanting school instruction, is not
wholly ignorant. Knowledge floats around him, of which he cannot but partake;
and despite even of himself, the tendency of events subjects him to a
progressive education. Associated as he is with large masses, he has community
in their intelligence, as well as in their passions. Interests of immediate
pressure, which he cannot discard, crowd about him; want, of which he would seek
the cause, or for which he would find a remedy, sharpen his sagacity; theories
solicit his belief, and tempt examination; events, discussion, speculation, all
that agitate a community profoundly complicated, include his mind in their
aggregate activities. When the English mechanic has had his mind opened by
reading, he desires to be informed, rather than to be amused; and he is
interested in works which treat of society in its principles, rather than in its
manners. With reading or without it, he loves nature; he longs for green fields
and the wooded lane; he delights in flowers and the song of birds; and he is
seldom without a geranium in his garret window, or a trained canary by his
Such I take to be an honest, but very imperfect estimate of the English
mechanic's character. Let me add something on his general condition. In skill
the English mechanic has no superior, and none excel him in willingness to work. But still his situation is commonly wretched, and, at best, it is hard. His
situation is a hard one, even when his work is constant and certain; for even
then, aided by the toil of his children, he can merely earn for the day what the
day consumes. The hour, therefore, which finds him idle, or finds him ill, comes
to him with want; and the hour which refuses him employment, gives him to
pauperism. In his average condition, the British operative is lodged poorly, fed
sparingly, and clad imperfectly. He is also the greatest sufferer by the
fluctuation of trade, when it is adverse, and the least a gainer when it is
prosperous. The turns which bring wealth to the capitalist, afford the operative
but a temporary subsistence; while those which injure only the little finger of
the capitalist, strike at the very life of the operative. It will be easily
inferred, that his intellectual privileges are as few as his physical. He has
had no adequate provision for his instruction; no system of education has been
presented to him, which he could claim as a right, and accept without
degradation. Charity-teaching has, here and there, solicited him to learn; but,
in general, charity-teaching, to any wide extent, is worse than ignorance; for
it instructs a generation to spell their beggary, and to write themselves
slaves. Had educational means been as abundant as they have been scanty, and as
elevating as they have been debasing, the British operative could have very
imperfectly appropriated them, for his toil began a few steps from the cradle,
and it continues till he staggers to the grave. The Sabbath itself is scarcely
his inheritance. The Sabbath which was made for man, which was given by the good
Father for rest and prayer, has slender greeting from the poor mechanic. Fatigue
turns it to apathy, or want clouds it with sorrow. Nor can his children enjoy it
as it should be in their power to enjoy it. In a right social state, the Sabbath
would be to the young a season of repose, a season of gladness, a weekly
jubilee, finding them in happy homes, or at altars free. But no; the youth of
the English working classes, to have any escape from absolute ignorance, make it
an interval of schooling, and thus, six days' drudgery at the loom is followed
by a seventh day's drudgery at the primer.
It is not to be expected that the English mechanic should be contented
with his political condition; for however sagacious his exclusion from the
suffrage may appear to his ruler, it is too much to think it could be
satisfactory to himself. The ruler may decide that he is too poor, too ignorant,
or too vicious to be trusted, but such reasons, instead of convincing, insult
him. The working man is told, that unless he holds a house of a certain rent he
cannot have a vote. But why, he inquires? Every reply directly to this question,
implies an injury or an insult. Is it answered that he is ignorant, that he is
poor? How comes it, that he should be so ignorant or so poor, that he cannot be
permitted to exercise the rights of a citizen? First, he is debased by
injustice, and his debasement is then urged against him. Is it answered that he
is vicious, and cannot be trusted? The injury is made perfect by insult. But who
are you, asks the thinking mechanic, who tell the working poor that they are
vicious? You are those who try to tempt our penury; who come to us with the
damning bribe; who take base opportunity of our weakness, and wrench from hunger
what you would never get from freedom; who corrupt us to sell our souls; and
when you have paid the wages of iniquity, turn round, as Satan does on his
victims, and scare us with our crime! Those who debauch the few poor that have
votes, refuse them to the millions; for such extended franchise would annihilate
your power of corruption. Who are you, who tell the working poor that they are
vicious? An idle aristocracy; men who feast in the midst of want, and who would
keep closed the gates of plenty; men who revel in luxury, and who lay least restraint on their
passions; among many of whom
sensuality is so notorious, that it has ceased to be scandalous. You are the
men, who presume to insinuate that a hard working mechanic has not moral
qualification to be a free man upon his birth-soil.
Do you tell the operative that he has no stake in the
country? What, no stake? Has he not himself? Has he not his life? Has his life been rendered so
miserable, that it is worth nothing even to himself? Has he not, then, kindred—the father who carried him in boyhood, the mother who nursed him in
he not a wife and children, as dear to his forlorn heart as if he were a peer?
And will you tell the muscular men of England in the hour of need, that they
have no stake in the country; that their partners and little ones do not
out-value the world, titles, thrones, and all its other baubles? Did you tell
this to the victors of the Nile, or the heroes of Waterloo? Was this your
watchword upon the heights of Corunna or the walls of Badajoz? But the working
man knows, that base as these imputations against him seem, they are not sincere; he knows, that it is not his ignorance that is feared, but his intelligence; not his vice, but his
independence; it is because that he does
appreciate his stake in the country, that he is precluded from manifesting the
sense he entertains of its worth. Yet he does not separate this from the rights
of others; it is his interest to hold sacred the rights of all classes; and no
calumny is more unfounded than that which would ascribe indifference to the
claims of property to the English operatives. The untouched inclosures of the
nation; the abodes of elegance at every turn; the castles of grandeur that crown
so many forests; the secure luxury of nobles in the sight of dying multitudes;
the tranquil order of business, give a universal lie to this aspersion!
Jealous of practical liberty, the English masses are not easily disturbed
about speculative liberty. They cannot be aroused by abstract ideas; they are
stirred to action only by palpable grievances. Chartism is therefore, the
exponent of profound and extended suffering; it is no offspring of theoretical
reasoning, but of physical endurance; the evil is radical and national. Chartism
is a simultaneous cry, not by preconcerted design, but in the unity of a common
sorrow, for a remedy as radical and as national as the evil. The Chartists are
not, as many suppose, the lowest of the working classes; they are not the
disorderly and the ignorant; they are the most sober and the most intelligent. They are men, who, being aware of the support which they afford to the nation,
feel entitled to a political existence; they are willing to be members of
society, but not its victims.
Physically, then, intellectually, morally, and politically, the condition
of English mechanics has long been one of irritation and discontent. Ebenezer
Elliott became the impersonation of this discontent. His voice was raised for
millions who had no voice. Dumb under the goad, they found in their brother a
heart of pity and a tongue of power. Elliott's voice was mighty, and mighty in
complaint. Elliott cried aloud, and spared not. With impetuous and ringing
tones, with the stern boldness of an ancient seer, and the vehement eloquence of
a modern reformer, he denounced the hard-handed and the proud. He summoned them
to trial; he hung up, as witness against them, the skinny skeleton of hunger; he
evoked the fiend of want to scare them at their feasts; and he breathed into his
terrible verses, the howl of starving multitudes, imploring vindication and
relief. We must not regard Elliott as a mere poet. He is a prophet. He needs not
fear criticism; but a critical judgment of him, would not be the true judgment. A moral feeling, rather than one of art, must guide our thoughts. He wrote for
the suffering; and to the suffering he has clung. He has devoted rare abilities
to that side in the social struggle, which, personally, could promise him
neither victory nor spoils. "I am sufficiently rewarded," he
says, "if my poetry has led one, poor, despairing victim of misrule, from
the ale-house to the fields; if I have been chosen of God, to show his desolate
heart, that though his wrongs have been heavy, and his fall deep, and though the
spoiler is yet abroad, still in the green lanes of England, the primrose is
blowing, and on the mountain top the lonely fir is pointing with her many
fingers to our Father who is in heaven; to Him whose wisdom is at once
inscrutable and indubitable; to whom ages are as a moment; to Him, who has
created another and a better world, for all who act nobly and suffer unjustly
here; a world of river-feeding mountains, to which the oak will come in his
strength and the ash in her beauty; of chiming streams and elmy vales, where the
wild flowers of our country, and among them the little daisy, will not refuse to
The distinctive characteristic of Elliott as a poet, is
strength of idea, and strength of word; strength in concentration of thought and
in singleness of purpose. Elliott has strength, and he has also the directness
which accompanies strength. The courage which belongs to the strong is, therefore, a natural quality of Elliott. Fearless and uncompromising, impassioned and sincere, he is, of course,
individual and independent. He is confident of the power that is in him; he is
confident of its worth, and he is honest in its direction. He is the creature of
no patron; he is the pet of no coterie; he is simply a man of deep feelings and
of earnest words; a man that writes because necessity is laid upon him, and
because his heart is full.
But mere strength will not make a
poet; nor will enthusiasm, added to
strength, make a poet. To be a poet, a man must have a sense of the beautiful;
and he must have capacity to express this emotion. Elliott feels the beautiful
in creation, and hence his delight in nature. The rural sentiment is ever active
in his breast. Nature is dear to him, and nature, especially as manifested in
the English landscape. The fancy of Elliott seldom transcends his sympathies. He
wanders not through space in the chariot of Queen Mab; a ramble by a native
rivulet contents him. He flies not to the vales of Indus, or to the bowers of Samarcand; he is satisfied with the velvet fields, and the sheltered lanes of
England. He paints entirely from observation, and therefore his pictures are all
from the scenery of his country. His descriptions are fresh and striking; at
times, perhaps, elaborate, but never unnatural. His images are excellent, and
they are numerous. Occasionally redundant, but always vigorous, they are as
different from the conceits of sentimentalism, as mountain oaks from hot-house
plants; they are vital forms, not colored shadows; the drapery of living beauty,
not wreaths on the brow of a corpse, or garlands hung upon a tomb.
This sympathy with natural objects is a most salutary element in such a
mental constitution as that of Elliott. It is this that leads him from the
forges to the hill-side, and from the crowded street to the quiet valley. It
finds him companions in trees and flowers; it gives him pleasant music in the
songs of the grove and the ripple of the stream. It is, therefore, a relief to
us, when he takes us from corn laws and cotton lords to peaceful haunts beyond
the smoke of town; haunts that soothe the turmoil of his thoughts, and brighten
the spirit of his dreams. Though he may still carry with him the tale of his
grievance, we love to hear it under the equal and the open sky, rather than in
garret or cellar, foundery or mill. Alive as Elliott is to social disorders and
social wrongs, it is also well that he should be alive to things which the
passions of the fighting world cannot mar. It is well that an ear so tortured
with the groans of man, should often give itself to the hymn of nature. It is
well that an eye so familiar with the sinful parts of earth, should find a
region of consolation which wickedness cannot defile. The breeze upon the cheek;
the free winds making choral harmonies with the forest; the joy of animals; the
blessed influences of holy light, tend mightily to cleanse the bosom from foul
and perilous stuff; to wash from the sicklied brain the corrosions which it has
gathered by unhealthy thoughts. Amidst the mountains, beside the ocean, upward
among the stars, our mean irritations expire; they are lost in the presence of
majesty and vastness; our concentrating littleness is absorbed in the silent
immensity of lustre.
Sympathy with external nature also influences the character of Elliott's
religion. The piety of Elliott is not ritual, but primitive. He worships God,
not in human forms, but in his own consecrated universe. In the spirit of a
worshipper, he seeks the copse or dell; in such a spirit he strolls by the
river, or muses in the shade. The spirit of devotion breaks through the roughest
of Elliott's denouncings; it comes ever and ever, like a hymn in the mountains
between the gusts of a thunder-storm. Darkly as social existence is reflected in
his thoughts, he does not leave out from his faith, that a wise and gracious
Providence cares for humanity. With the wealthy he is often angry; even with the
poor he is, at times, impatient; but before his Maker he is always humble and
believing. Elliott dwells but too constantly in the land of Mesech, and sojourns
amid the tents of Kedar; the forms most present to his sight and to his musings,
are those of faded women and despairing men; but still he holds fast in his
piety, and bows in reverence to his Maker in mournful submission. In Elliott's
lines on "Forest Worship," we have a fair illustration of his
devotional temper. Though shaded with his habitual gloom, there are beamings
through them of hope and resignation.
"Within the sun-lit forest,
Our roof the bright
Where fountains flow and wild flowers blow,
We lift our hearts on
Beneath the frown of wicked men
Our country's strength
But thanks to God, they can't prevent
The lone wild flowers
"High, high above the
The lark is soaring
Where streams the light through broken clouds,
His speckled breast I
Beneath the might of wicked men
The poor man's worth
But thank'd be God, in spite of them,
The lark still warbles
"The preacher prays, Lord
Lord bless us, echo
Amen, the breezes murmur low,
Amen, the rill
The ceaseless toil of woe-worn hearts
The proud with pangs
But here, O God of earth and heaven!
The humble heart is
"How softly in the pauses
Of song, re-echoed
The cushat's coo, the linnet's lay,
O'er hill and river
With evil deeds, of evil men,
The aftrighted land is
But still, O Lord! the pious heart
And soul-toned voice
Imagination, in its creative force, does not, as I apprehend, belong to
Elliott; but fancy is his; fancy that teems with poetic illustration, and that
burns with eloquent impulses. Yet though the fancy of Elliott is strong and
rich, it is not plastic; and this appears especially in his management of
numbers and language. His verse wants music; it is obstinate; rugged; of
difficult enunciation. It is pervaded with fire; it is not a fire, however,
which renders expression liquid, but a fire which makes it hard; it does not
give to language harmony, but intensity. Elliott is copious, but not select; and
though evidently master of an abundant vocabulary, he uses favorite epithets and
phrases with a constancy of repetition, which would be intolerable in a writer
of less ability. There is an artistic command by which the poet uses words as
the painter uses colors; by which his verses become to the ear what a picture is
to the eye; by which variety and sweetness of modulation have similar effects to
a just disposition of light and shade; by which diction commingles into one the
spirit of thought and the beauty of the universe. Such I apprehend to be the
essence of poetic harmony. This, is not, as I conceive, the distinctive
excellence of Elliott. I say distinctive, because I would not assert that
Elliott never has it. Occasionally, his verse has a gentle sweetness or a high
choral sounding, which would entitle it to a lofty place in the music of poetry.
In the nature of his topics, Elliott has some resemblance to Crabbe. Both
have selected their subjects from humble life; and both have dealt with their
subjects in a tone of earnestness, and conformably to reality. Here the
resemblance closes. Elliott admits the suggestive action of Crabbe's genius upon
his mind, yet Elliott is not his imitator. He has more passion than Crabbe, more
fancy, and more sympathy. His verse, assuming every diversity of structure, does
not contain the variety of incident which quivers beneath the simple and
monotonous lines of Crabbe. He is not, like Crabbe, minute and literal; nor has
he Crabbe's fearful power of tragic narrative. He cannot, as that writer, work
up a picture of sin and sorrow, until the heart is chill; he cannot freeze the
blood, but he can heat it; he can kindle anger, but he cannot inspire terror.
I have said, that Elliott has great love for external nature; he has,
also, great love for man. This love has been rendered angry by his
circumstances; it has been turned into indignation by the wrong which humanity
inflicts upon humanity. He has companioned with the afflicted, and he has taken
up the burden of their lamentation, and their curse. He is, therefore, a prophet
in the wilderness of calamity, and his voice is as sad as it is vehement. There
is a mighty heart in the man, but the big veins of it are filled with grief;
they swell with a huge suffering, and groans not loud, but deep, come out of the heavings. The brotherhood of Elliott have literally been " men of
sorrows," and Elliott's is a temper to make such sorrow all his own. He had
no need to stir his imagination with thoughts of fictitious woe; the presence of
actual misery was always before him. It met him at every turn; it stared on him
at every corner; it pressed on him at every sense; it peered up to him from the
foggy cellar; it gazed down upon him from the dizzy garret; he heard it in the
whine of breadless childhood; he saw it in the pale faces which crowded from the
nightly factory to meet the sleepy dawn; it sat before him in the worn mother
with her sickly infant; it staggered by him in the drooping father leading out
his consumptive boy, to lie upon the grass, and pluck a flower ere he died. How
could a man like Elliott, a man, almost made of fire, escape being stirred to
fury? How was any temperance of humanity preserved in him? Only, because he had
pity equal to his anger, and his weeping was even more bitter than his wrath.
What a martyrdom for life is his, who cannot help but
feel? Who cannot
escape from the wretchedness about him, nor yet from the sensibility within,
which gives to that wretchedness its utmost gloom? There is, to be sure, an
idealism, which discerns a glorious hope, or the state would not be martyrdom,
but perdition. The martyr, in the midst of agonies, sees the heavens opened, and
the light streaming down upon him from the throne of God; and in the very chokings of torture, he puts forth the anthems of faith. The poet has such faith
in the worst of hours; and poets such as Elliott need it. His song is truly the
hymn of the martyr. A vast difference, there is, between imaginary woes, and the
woes of imagination; a vast difference between the regrets of a coquette for the
loss of a worthless lover, and the grief of that man who can hear the prisoner's
sigh in the lowest dungeon of earth, who can realize in its terrible extent the
empire of wrong, upon which, indeed, the sun never sets. To speak simply of
personal afflictions, how exceeding heavy are they on the man of imagination, in
whom there is a true sensibility. To mere instinct they are soon over. They are
clouds that spread shadows as they pass, but are melted in the first gush of the
sun. With imagination, in which the heart's life keeps fresh, they are spectres
that disappear, but come back again at the slightest touch.
The vividness and intensity which belong to genius, are sources of
perennial suggestiveness. The common mind, dependent ever on the senses, weeps
away its grief in the hour when it comes, but to the strong and keen
imagination, sorrow starts up from the grave of years, more killing than ever in
its first visitation. Often the man of genius seems to want ordinary sensibility
while affliction is present; his voice is firm, and his eye holds no tear; but
when the event is nothing to those who moaned the loudest, it will come back to
him; it will cross the paths of his solitary walks; it will sit by him in his
thoughtful indolence; it will lean with him over the declining embers; it will
start on him in the midst of his reasonings; it will interrupt his meditations
with sobbings as of a child. What, then, must life have been to such a man as
Elliott? With a heart that could not be otherwise than unhappy, while his
fellows groaned; with that capacity which gathered into its range of perception,
the cotton mill, the forge, the ten thousand varieties of poor men's homes, the
bald monotony of poor men's histories, the hopeless fardel of toil and
destitution, how could he be otherwise than sad; his bosom a fountain of tears,
and his utterance a voice of wailing! I will not say, that Elliott's gloom is
desirable either for poetry or usefulness. It is well, indeed, that there should
be always souls to burn for evils that are rampant in the habitable world; it is
well there should be a sympathy, which will not hold its peace, while the weak
are crushed; it is well there should be an anger which will not quit the warfare
against injustice, while injustice triumphs. Yet, for strong and healthy action,
there must be points of rest, and many associations of peace; there must be
serene spaces, from which the soul can shut out the cares that oppress it. Even
to ameliorate the disorders for which we grieve, and to acquire energy against
them, we must often take ourselves away from their company. Sympathy, itself,
droops in an unvarying contemplation of wretchedness; and therefore, to sustain
the mission of philanthropists, we must carry the cheerfulness of hope into the
toils of mercy. I will not say, that the feelings of Elliott are not often too
prejudiced and one-sided. The poet must be more than an advocate. The anger of
the poet like that of the prophet, must be an anger more solemn than that of the
passions. The poet, too, who wishes to outlive the strifes of a generation, must
have that tolerance which marks the permanent and the comprehensive
manifestations of humanity; he must have the eye of wisdom, and the heart of
charity. The poor man, however, so absorbs Elliott, so attracts his sympathy,
that the rich man has little from him but resistance. He forgets, too often,
that humanity, in the peer as in the beggar, is a thing of frailties, subject to
folly and to grief; a thing which, under the brightest gaud, bears anguish
enough to claim our pity.
Elliott has been a fertile writer. His productions I cannot minutely
examine, or even specify. Among his shorter poems, there are some that come out
from the heart's fulness, and speak at once to the heart's sympathies. Among
these I may mention, "The Dying Boy to the Sloe Blossom,"
"Mary's Dream," "Preston Mills," "He went, He wrote,
He came." Elliott has had woe and trials in his own home; he has wept on
the waste spaces which death made in his little circle; and in all these
expressions of grief-inspired genius, we feel the man in the poet, and the poet
in the man. "The Village Patriarch" is the longest, poem of Elliott,
and perhaps his best. It is thoughtful and elevated. Enoch Wray, the village
patriarch, has numbered a hundred years. A humble man was Enoch Wray. He was
poor, but had genius. He had the wisdom of the head, and the cunning of the hand; his speaking and his work showed he had ideas, and that these ideas were
his own. In his youth he became blind by too intense a perusal of Schiller's
drama of "The Robbers;" the French Revolution having increased the
agitation, until it destroyed his sight. When the poet introduces us to the old
man eloquent, he is the chronicle of his neighborhood, the impersonation of a
century. The glory of the world has departed from his eye, but truth and wisdom
are a more excellent glory to his soul. The beauty of things visible has given
place to the beauty of things immortal. He is resigned, but despondent; his home
has been afflicted, and his country has become degenerate. England, he thinks,
is not the England of his youth. The peasants are sparingly fed, and the nobles
are no longer generous. But nature is ever dear to Enoch. He loves the odor of
the primrose, and the texture of the violet; he loves to sit in summer by his
cottage door, and to feel the breath of evening upon his sightless brow. He
loves with friendly help to climb the mountain, and there, upon its lonely
summit, amidst the silence of infinitude, to commune with the Eternal. Enoch
soon walks no more with man. After some gropings to familiar places, after some
farewells to old companions, Enoch gives up the ghost, and is gathered to his
fathers. The whole poem is impressed with genius, but the whole must be read
that the genius may be felt. Enoch's own character is shrouded in a dim
religious grandeur; with impassioned lamentation, there are gentle musings that
tell of hard days passed in toil, and quiet Sabbaths passed in prayer; there are
elevation and seriousness, the elevation of a solemn faith, and the seriousness
of a profound experience.
The Corn-law Rhymes, are the verses by which Elliott is most extensively
known; and though by no means the best of his works, they are those which give
him his literary designation. They are verses of extra ordinary power; but of
power to be thoroughly understood only by those who know the poverty of England. These poems are fierce, scornful, indignant, sarcastic, sweeping boldly along in
thundering rebuke, or fiery denunciation. Take this battle song as an instance—and I think it is a fair one—of their spirit and their energy:
our souls, is fiercely dark;
then? 'T is day!
We sleep no more; the cock crows--hark!
"They come! they come! the knell is rung
Of us or them;
Wide o'er their march the pomp is flung
Of gold and gem.
"What collar'd hound of lawless sway,
To famine dear
What pensioned slave of Attila,
Leads in the rear?
"Come they from Scythian wilds afar,
Our blood to spill?
Wear they the livery of the Czar?
They do his will.
"Nor tassell'd silk, nor epaulette,
Nor plume, nor torse--
No splendor gilds, all sternly met,
Our foot and horse.
"But, dark and still we inly glow,
Condensed in ire!
Strike, tawdry slaves, and ye shall know
Our gloom is fire.
"In vain your pomp, ye evil powers,
Insults the land;
Wrongs, vengeance, and the cause is ours!
And God's right hand!
"Mad men! They trample into snakes
The wormy clod!
Like fire, beneath their feet awakes
The sword of God!
"Behind, before, above, below,
They rouse the brave—
Where'er they go, they make a foe
Or find a grave."
But they are not
all thus. Here is a rhyme of more sober character:
"Wrong not the laboring poor by whom ye live,
Wrong not your humble fellow-worms, ye proud!
For God will not the poor man's wrongs forgive,
But hear his plea, and have his plea allowed.
"O be not like the vapors, splendor-rolled,
That, sprung from earth's green breast, usurp the sky.
Then spread around contagion black and cold
Till all who mourn the dead, prepare to die!
"No! imitate the bounteous clouds that rise,
Freighted with bliss from river, vale, and plain;
The thankful clouds that beautify the skies,
Then fill the lap of earth with fruit and grain.
"Yes! emulate the mountain and the flood,
That trade in blessings with the mighty deep;
Till, soothed to peace, and satisfied with good,
Man's heart be happy as a child asleep."
And here is a truly noble chant on "The
"God said, ' Let there be light;'
Grim darkness felt his might
Then startled seas and mountains cold
Shone forth, all bright in blue and gold,
And cried —''Tis day, 'tis day.'
"Hail, holy light! exclaimed
The thund'rous cloud that flamed
And lo! the rose in crimson dressed,
Leaned sweetly on the lily's breast;
And blushing, murmured -' Light!'
"Then was the sky-lark born,
Then rose the embattled corn;
Then floods of praise
Flowed o'er the sunny hills of noon;
And then, in stillest might, the moon
Poured forth her pensive lays.
"Lo! heaven's bright bow is glad,
Lo, trees and flowers, all clad
And shall the mortal sons of God
Be senseless as the trodden clod,
And darker than the tomb!
"No! by the mind of man!
By the swart artisan!
By God our
Our souls have holy light within,
And every form of grief and sin,
Shall see and feel its fire.
"By earth, and hell, and heaven,
The shroud of souls is riven,
Mind, mind alone
Is light, and hope, and life, and power!
Earth's deepest night from this bless'd hour,
The night of mind, is gone!
"The Press all lands shall sing;
The Press, the Press we bring,
All lands to
O pallid Want! O Labor stark!
Behold, we bring the sacred ark!
The Press! the Press! the Press!"
Elliott has the poetic nature in him in its elemental
strength; but he
differs from most poets as to the manner in which it works through him, and in
which it finds expression. Elliott seems to feel a passion in its utmost power,
then to be troubled for its limitations, until he becomes angry unto wrath, or
saddened to despair, for the wronged or the wretched, in whom nature is either
maddened or destroyed. Take a case. Wordsworth's heart leaps up when he beholds
a rainbow in the sky. Elliott, with as deep appreciation, would feel his heart
bowed down. Wordsworth would find companions in the stones and sheep, to gaze
with him, and to enjoy the sight. Elliott would think of men, with hearts like
his own, who had not often seen a rainbow, or the sun that makes one. Take
another case. In the gallows, with all its terrible and retributive
associations, Wordsworth beholds the solemn action of society upon guilt, and he
pours around it the mystic halo of his genius in high-sounding sonnets. Were it
not almost profane, we might call some of them the Hangman's Hymns. Elliott
would see in the gallows, especially the English gallows, the fatal consummation
of a social tragedy, in which the poor were victims, - the poor, ignorant by
neglect, vicious by ignorance, and exterminated by vice.
Take one case more. "Love" is with all poets a universal
passion; and in prose and verse it is the inspiration of all that is ideal and
imaginative in literature. Elliott's very heart is on fire with it, and
strike the chord as poet may, no bard sounds a higher note than his. But
bards in general warble the song as one in which all beings can join chorus, the
captive with the king, the beggar with the bird. Elliott, feeling the
truth and power of love in his own soul, but in an equal degree knowing, from
practical sympathy, how the oppressed are deprived of it, sings rather
differently. He is right, most right; for a slave there is no genuine
love, and bravely thus, and honestly, he chants it:
where ye toil for tyrants, Love is not:
Love's noblest temple is the freeman's cot!
What though each blast its humble thatch uptear,
Bold shall the tyrant be that enters there.
Look up and see, where, throned on Alpine snow;
Valor disdains the bondsman's vales below:
So, Love, companion of the wolf, may roam,
And in the desert find a boundless home;
But will not bow the knee to pomp and pride,
Where slaves of slaves with hate and fear reside.
What are the glories that Oppression throws
Around his vainly-guarded throne of woes;
The marbles of divinity, and all
That decks pale Freedom's pomp of funeral?
Let Grandeur's home, o'er subject fields and floods,
Rise, like a mountain clad in wintry woods,
And columns tall, of marble wrought, uphold
The spiry roof, and ceilings coved in gold;
But better than the palace and the slave
Is Nature's cavern that o'erlooks the wave,
Rock-paved beneath, and granite-arched above,
If Independence sojourn there with Love!"
Elliott, in description, overlays his subject. He is prolific and
luxuriant to a fault. The characteristic beauties of an object, or a scene, are
lost in his profusion and his amplitude. But perhaps this is more than
compensated for by his wild wealth of power. Out of this he pours a prodigal
irregularity, even as Nature herself pours it. Elliott makes poor work when he
attempts humor. It is the elephant essaying the gambols and grimaces of the
monkey. His mind is too large, too massive, and too unwieldy for the lighter
graces of humor. It is too sad, too earnest, too dark, too passionate, for the
gigantic banter, the Polyphemuslike laughter of Pantagruelism. It is too tender,
too full of sympathy and humanity, for the sardonic and sarcastic ridicule of Mephistophelianism. Pensive in the field, excited in the crowd, mixing
sensations and impressions from both with the workings of his fine but sombre
imagination, and with the pantings of his strong but gentle heart, he becomes
truly great; great, because then he combines his poetic with his actual life;
and therein consists his power. He is a Titanic workman, singing his terrible
song of Labor. He is the Æschylus of toil. He is the solemn tragic genius of
England's artisans. Hood was the femalemind of those who earn Death by the sweat
of the brow. Of such, Elliott is the masculine mind. The genius of Elliott is to
that of Hood, as the song of the sledge would be to "The Song of the Shirt;"
and yet, withal, he has ever and again tones of such sweetness as need a pen
dipped in tears to write them. Here is a gush of this kind:
"The meanest thing to which we bid adieu,
Loses its meanness in the parting hour.
When long-neglected worth seems born anew,
The heart that scorns earth's pageantry and power
May melt in tears, or break, to quit a flower."
Then hear this scathing, this
fierce, this indignant cry:
"Shall I, lost
the pest a name
That, like a cancer, eats into thy core?
'T is Avarice, hungry as devouring flame;
But swallowing all, it hungers as before,
While flame, its food exhausted, burns no more.
O ye hard hearts that grind the poor, and crush
Their honest pride, and drink their blood in wine,
And eat their children's bread without a blush,
Willing to wallow in your pomp, like swine,
Why do ye wear the human form divine?
Can ye make men of brutes, contemn'd, enslav'd?
Can ye grow sweetness on the bitter rue?
Can ye restore the health of minds deprav'd?
And self-esteem in blighted hearts renew?
Why should souls die to feed such worms as you?
Numidian! who didst say to hated Rome,—
There is no buyer yet to purchase thee!'
Come, from the damn'd of old, Jugurtha, come!
See one Rome fall'n!—another, mightier, see!
And tell us what the second Rome shall be!
But long, O Heav'n! avert from this sad land
The conflict of the many with the few,
When, crumpled, like a leaf, in havock's hand,
The great, the old, shall vanish from the view,
And slaves be men, all traitors, and all true!
Nor from the fierce and iron-breathing North,
That grimly blossoms with the sword and spear,
Call a new Alaric and his robbers forth,
To crush what worth is left untrampled here,
And shake from Freedom's urn dust still too dear,
While trade-left Thames pours mute his shipless wave!"
An excellent aphorism is the following couplet, one that should live in the
hearts of statesmen:
"For they who fling the poor
man's worth away,
Root out security, and plant dismay."
Elliott, poet as he is, nay, just because he is a poet, cannot see all
deformity in the steam-fed city. Poetry is not all beauty. Poetry is power,
freedom, and passion as well. Indeed, beauty is subordinate in comparison to
these. Whatever exhibits human power in connection with human passion, has
poetry in it, and greatest poetry. It is in cities, therefore, that the
mightiest of poets have been trained. Steam is a marvellous agency, an almost
miraculous adaptation of man's invention to man's wants. It were strange if the
poets in the nineteenth century could pass it over, or only find it prosaic and
repulsive. Elliott could not do so; and his lines accordingly, on "Steam
at Sheffield," are among the grandest and the most inspired of his
compositions. Steam does not, as some assert, put man behind the mechanism. Not
so. Man is in the mechanism. What is man at any time without a machine? But
steam becomes more and more united with man's life, and interests, and fate; and
I repeat, it were strange, passing strange, if out of these no poetry could be
"Oh, there is glorious
harmony in this
Tempestuous music of the giant, Steam,
Commingling growl, and roar, and stamp, and hiss,
With flame and darkness! Like a Cyclop's dream,
It stuns our wondering souls, that start and scream
With joy and terror; while, like gold on snow,
Is morning's beam on Andrew's hoary hair!
Like gold on pearl is morning on his brow!
His hat is in his hand, his head is bare;
And, rolling wide his sightless eyes, he stands
Before this metal god, that yet shall chase
The tyrant idols of remotest lands,
Preach science to the desert, and efface
The barren curse from every pathless place."
"The Ranter" is a noble strain, and in the
highest mood of Elliott's genius. Here is a blast trumpettoned on the
"O for a Saint, like those who
sought and found,
For conscience' sake, sad homes beyond the main!
The Fathers of New England, who unbound,
In wild Columbia, Europe's double chain:
The men whose dust cries,' Sparta, live again!'
The slander'd Calvinists of Charles's time
Fought (and they won it) Freedom's holy fight.
Like prophet-bards, although they hated rhyme,
All incorruptible as heaven's own light,
Spoke each devoted preacher for the right.
No servile doctrines, such as power approves,
They to the poor and broken-hearted taught;
With truths that tyrants dread, and conscience loves,
They wing'd and barb'd the arrows of their thought;
Sin in high places was the mark they sought;
They said not, 'Man be circumspect and thrive!
Be mean, base, slavish, bloody—and
Nor doth the Deity they worshipp'd drive
His four-in-hand, applaud a smutty tale,
Send Members to the House, and us to gaol.
With zeal they preach'd, with reverence they were heard;
For in their daring creed, sublime, sincere,
Danger was found, that parson-hated word!
They flatter'd none—they knew nor hate nor fear,
But taught the will of God—and did it here.
as the fire-wing'd thunder rends the cloud,
Their spoken lightnings, dazzling all the land,
Abash'd the foreheads of the great and proud,
Still'd faction's roar, as by a god's command,
And meeken'd Cromwell of the iron hand."
I cannot fancy any words that toil-starved poverty can conceive of sadder pathos
than this low plaint:
TUNE — "The
Land o' the Leal."
"Where the poor cease to pay,
Go, lov'd one, and rest!
Thou art wearing away
To the land of the blest.
Our father is gone
Where the wrong'd are forgiven,
And that dearest one,
Thy husband, in heaven.
"No toil in despair,
No tyrant, no slave,
No bread-tax is there,
With a maw like the grave.
But the poacher, thy pride,
Whelm'd in ocean afar;
And his brother who died
Land-butcher'd in war;
"And their mother, who sank
Broken-hearted to rest;
And the baby, that drank
Till it froze on her breast;
With tears, and with smiles,
Are waiting for thee,
In the beautiful isles
Where the wrong'd are the free.
"Go, loved one, and rest
Where the poor ceased to pay!
To the land of the blest
Thou art wearing away;
But the son of thy pain
Will yet stay with me,
And poor little Jane
Look sadly like thee."
An extract from a poem entitled "Win-Hill," * or "The
Curse of God," will show to what sublimity Elliott can attain.
"Thy voice is like thy Father's, dreadful storm!
Earth hears his whisper, when thy clouds are torn!
And Nature's tremor bids our sister-worm
Sink in the ground. But they who laugh to scorn
The trampled heart which want and toil have worn,
Fear thee, and laugh at HIM, whose warning word
Speaks from thy clouds, on burning billows borne;
For, in their hearts, his voice they never heard,
Ne'er felt his chastening hand, nor pined with hope deferr'd.
"O Thou whose whispering is the thunder! Power
Eternal, world-attended, yet alone!
O give, at least, to labor's hopeless hour
That peace, which Thou deny'st not to a stone!
The famine-smitten millions cease to groan;
When wilt Thou hear their mute and long despair?
Lord, help the poor! for they are all thy own.
Wilt Thou not help? did I not hear Thee swear
That Thou would'st tame the proud, and grant their victim's
"Methought I saw THEE
in the dreams of sleep.
This mountain, Father, groan'd beneath thy heel!
Thy other foot was placed on Kinder's steep;
Before thy face I saw the planets reel,
While earth and skies shone bright as molten steel;
For under all the stars Thou took'st thy stand,
And bad'st the ends of heaven behold and feel,
That thou to all thy worlds had'st stretch'd thine hand,
And curs'd for evermore the Legion-Fiend of Land!"
* The central mountain—not the highest—of the Peak
And now a gentle tone:
"Sleep, sleep, my
Shall wake, his fevered maid to guard:
The moon in heaven rides high;
The dim stars through thy curtains peep;
Whilst thou, poor sufferer, triest to sleep,
They hear thy feeble cry.
"She sleeps! but pain, though baffled, streaks,
With intermitting blush, her cheeks,
And haunts her troubled dream:
Yet shalt thou wake to health, my love,
And seek again the blue-bell'd grove,
And music-haunted stream."
Take the following as a specimen of Elliott's pathos:
THE BROKEN HEART.
passenger! for I am
And heavy are my falling feet
Stop! till I gather strength to speak:
Twice have I seen thee cross the street,
Where woe and wild-flowers seldom meet.
"O give a pallid flower to her
Who ne'er again will see one grow!
Give me a primrose, passenger!
That I may bless it ere I go
To my false love, in death laid low.
"Sweet- sweet! it breathes of Rother's bowers,
Where, like the stream, my childhood play'd;
And, happy as the birds and flowers,
love and I together strayed,
Far from the dim town's deadly shade.
"Why did he leave my mother's cot?
My days of trouble then began:
I followed, but he knew me not!
The stripling had become a man!
And now in heaven he waits for Ann.
"Back from consumption's streeted gloom,
To death's green fields, I fain would fly;
In yon churchyard there is no room
For broken-hearted flowers to sigh,
And look on heaven before they die."
Yet here is an illustration, if possible, more touching:
THE DYING BOY TO THE SLOE BLOSSOM.
"Before thy leaves thou com'st
White blossom of the sloe!
Thy leaves will come as heretofore;
But this poor heart, its troubles o'er,
Will then lie low.
"A month at least before thy time
Thou com'st, pale flower, to me;
For well thou know'st the frosty rime
Will blast me ere my vernal prime,
No more to be.
"Why here in winter No storm lowers
O'er Nature's silent shroud!
But blithe larks meet the sunny showers,
High o'er the doomed untimely flowers
In beauty bowed.
"Sweet violets, in the budding grove,
Peep where the glad waves run;
The wren below, the thrush above,
Of bright to-morrow's joy and love
Sing to the sun.
"And where the rose-leaf, ever bold,
Hears bees chant hymns to God,
The breeze-bowed palm, mossed o'er with gold,
Smiles on the well in summer cold,
And daisied sod.
"But thou, pale blossom, thou art come,
And flowers in winter blow,
To tell me that the worm makes room
For me, her brother, in the tomb,
And thinks me slow.
"For as the rainbow of the dawn
Foretells an eve of tears,
A sunbeam on the saddened lawn
I smile, and weep to be withdrawn
In early years.
"Thy leaves will come! but songful spring
Will see no leaf of mine;
Her bells will ring, her bride's-maids sing
When my young leaves are withering
Where no suns shine.
"O might I breathe morn's dewy breath,
When June's sweet Sabbath's chime!
But, thine before my time, O Death!
I go where no flower blossometh,
Before my time.
"Even as the blushes of the morn
Vanish, and long ere noon
The dew-drop dieth on the thorn,
So fair I bloomed; and was I born
To die as soon?
"To love my mother and to die—
To perish in my bloom!
Is this my sad brief history?
A tear dropped from a mother's eye
Into the tomb.
"He lived and loved— will sorrow say—
By early sorrow tried;
He smiled, he sighed, he past away;
His life was but an April day—
He loved and died!
"My mother smiles, then turns away,
But turns away to weep;
They whisper round me—what they say
I need not hear, for in the clay
I soon must sleep.
"Oh, love is sorrow! sad it is
To be both tried and true!
I ever trembled in my bliss;
Now there are farewells in a kiss—
They sigh adieu.
" But woodbines flaunt when bluebells fade,
Where Don reflects the skies;
And many a youth in Shire-cliffs' shade
Will ramble where my boyhood played,
Though Alfred dies.
"Then panting woods the breeze will feel,
And bowers, as heretofore,
Beneath their load of roses reel;
But I through woodbined lanes shall steal
No more, no more.
"Well, lay me by my brother's side,
Where late we stood and wept;
For I was stricken when he died—
I felt the arrow as he sighed
His last and slept."
find that I could, did I follow my inclination, make a volume, and not an essay,
by mere extracts; but I must deny my desire, and close with two short poems,
which paint in glowing words the author's own character and genius.
"Child of the
When thou wast orphan'd here:
They left a treasure in thy breast,
The soul of Pity's tear.
And thou must be—not
what thou wilt;
then, what would'st thou be?
'A Poet!' Oh, if thou would'st steep
Deep thoughts in ecstasy,
"Nor poet of the rich be thou,
Nor poet of the poor;
Nor harper of the swarming town,
Nor minstrel of the moor;
But be the bard of all mankind,
The prophet of all time,
And tempt the saints in heaven to steal
Earth's truth, created rhyme.
"Be the Columbus of a world
Where wisdom knows not fear;
The Homer of a race of men
Who need not sword and spear.
in thy heart, and God in thee,
If thou to men canst show,
Thou makest mortals angels here,
Their home a heaven below.
"Upon a rock thou sett'st thy feet,
And callest Death thy slave:
' Here lies a man!' Eternity
Shall write upon thy grave;
' A Bard lies here!—
O softly tread,
Ye never-wearied years!
And bless, O World, a memory
Immortal as thy tears!'"
A POET'S EPITAPH.
"Stop, Mortal! Here thy brother lies,
The Poet of the Poor.
His books were rivers, woods, and skies,
The meadow, and the moor;
His teachers were the torn hearts' wail,
The tyrant, and the slave,
The street, the factory, the jail,
The meanest thing, earth's feeblest worm,
He feared to scorn or hate;
And honor'd in a peasant's form
The equal of the great.
if he lov'd the rich who make
The poor man's little more,
Ill could he praise the rich who take
From plunder'd labor's store.
A hand to do, a head to plan,
A heart to feel and dare—
Tell man's worst foes, here lies the man
Who drew them as they are."
battle for labor has been manfully carried on; and the battle for labor has been
a battle for freedom. Every gain to the rights of industry has been equally a
gain to the rights of liberty. The franchise of toil has advanced the franchise
of thought; and the independence of handicraft has extended the independence of
humanity. The man of privilege is the man of the Past; the man of labor is the
man of the Future. The man of the Future, even in England, gains on the man of
the Past; but the man of the Past, though enfeebled, is not destroyed, and it is
not desirable that he should be. He is a portion of the national memory, and he
is worthy of existence as an agent in national civilization. As yet he has had
no reason to complain. He still stands upon dark and massive battlements, and
proudly unfurls the banner which was won at Cressy or Agincourt. Commerce,
however, has stripped forests from his hills, to spread mightier forests on the
sea; his flag is obscured in the smoke of increasing manufactures, and the music
of his halls grows faint in the din of surrounding looms and hammers.
social changes of England have been anticipated by no extended foresight, and
they have been met by no adequate preparation. The external greatness of the
country has been enlarged, but the poor man's comforts have been diminished; and
this wretchedness the poor man endures under the heavy aggravation of most
painful contrast. His lair is in the midst of palaces; his empty basket is
surrounded by luxury, which earth is exhausted to supply; he faints by the odor
of feasts upon his weakness, as he passes by the halls of banqueting, and his
squalid rags are spurned by the pampered menial that shrinks from him in the
street. And why, he asks himself, is this? Why, with honesty and hands, have I
not at least leave to toil? When toil is given me, why have I not leave to live?
Because my hands have been manacled by restrictive legislation; because idleness
has become necessity, and starvation, law; because my wages have been swallowed
in maintaining privilege; because debts, which cause nations to stand aghast,
have been contracted to pay the mercenaries of foreign despots. This money has
but sold my days to hopeless servitude; and the victories of my brave
compatriots have given nothing to me and to my children, but an everlasting
inheritance of hunger.
statesmen of England have been wanting in the grand sagacity which a mighty
country in extraordinary times demanded. The manufacturing power of England has
in half a century grown to a hugeness unexampled in the history of trade; but
nothing comparatively was done in reference to this immense revolution. While
squires declaimed in Parliament on the iniquity of poaching, and called for
rigid laws to save partridges from the infamy of being shot by plebeian
gunpowder, —while ministers taxed the country for millions, to place one fool
on a rickety throne, instead of another, — masses of human beings were
silently conglomerating within limited districts, forming a dense and a peculiar
population. Who were those, let us ask, who constituted this population? They
were families, who, leaving their cabins behind them in the wilds of Ireland,
sought to escape famine in the country, and found it in the city. They were
families, who, streaming down from Welsh and Scottish mountains, were tempted
from their cloudy solitudes to pursue fortune in strange crowds, and met with
hardships which their sterile hills had never threatened. They were families
from the green dells and quiet hamlets of England, whom high rents and bad times
had scourged from the open light of nature to the filthy cellars of the smoky
town. Collected thus from various districts, by similar distress, they had
nothing in common but ignorance and want. Once involved in factory labor, their
condition was destiny. They had no other refuge on which to fall back; live they
might, while work was for them, and when it failed, they must be paupers, or
they must die. From the plough to the cotton mill, was like the passage to the
grave; it could be made but once, and could never be retraced.
then, a distinctive class was incorporated with the nation; and this class had
distinctive wants. What had been done for these people? Did each person bring
from his native district a decent education, with which his native district had
supplied him? No provision existed for any such supply. Armies abounded for the
peninsula of Europe and the peninsula of India, but schoolmasters were scarce
for the cottages of Ireland and the cottages of Britain. With solemn cathedrals,
and venerable colleges, with triumph of arms, and conquest of empires, England
has allowed generations of her children to live and die in a most forlorn
ignorance; with vast revenues for state, for nobles, for hierarchies, she has
nothing to spare for the souls of the poor. Would it be wonderful, then, if
masses, thus goaded for mere existence, thus neglected, should start up in the
madness of their want and the fury of their passions, and stain their age with
deeds which history would shudder to record? But no. Gloriously they have borne
misfortune; patiently they have endured injustice; valiantly, wisely, and
humanely they will redress their wrongs.
is hope for the toilsmen of England! Yes; but where? In themselves; not in peers
and princes, not in parties or statesmen; but in their own stout hearts, in
their own enlightened exertions, in their own moral and intellectual exaltation. The virtuous cannot be despised, and the wise cannot be conquered; and no one
can doubt, who has watched the progress of events, that, within a few years,
virtue and wisdom have made progress among the operatives of Britain. Thousands
and thousands have passed blamelessly through suffering, which in other times
would have had the praise of martyrdom. Imprisoned men, forgetting all
vindictive feeling, have used their hours of confinement to send forth
instruction to their brothers clad in noble diction, and breathing a high
philosophy. Humble men from the Chartist ranks, dragged to jail for sedition,
have shown their power for such lofty, intellectual, and moral achievement. Let
English toilsmen take courage; ay, and English toilswomen also. Have we not
evidence of graceful and elegant attainment in this country among a laboring
class of the fair sex; evidence, that heads are not idle, while hands are busy?
American factory girls, with a vivacity of mind which no fatigue can depress,
have added to our literature; and their contributions are distinguished by an
excellence of thought which needs but small indulgence from the critical, and by
a purity of sentiment which merits all the praises of the good.
this voice from the heart of toiling womanhood go from the girls of America, and
fall upon the weary spirits of their British sisters; and let it come back
across the wild Atlantic in joyous echoes of exulting hope. The daughters of
labor, even in England, may not despair of redemption. The sons of labor can
gain it for themselves, and help their weaker companions. They have many
examples and predecessors; kingly men, from plough and hammer, from hill-side
and dyke. An era, I would fain believe, is coming for the English toilsman, when
his labor will purchase him more than a living death; when an existence will be
fairly within his reach, which will include whatever confers pure enjoyment and
moral elevation; he will then be sustained in his own self-respect. He will not
be ashamed of a virtuous calling; and none will dare to regard his position with
contempt; no dastard blush will suffuse the brow which has been wrinkled by the
care of a hard but honest occupation; and the hand will seek no concealment,
which has been roughened by industry, but has never been soiled by corruption. Under any circumstances, in any state of things, in any country, if we
appreciate truth and reality; if we are not cheated by sham, and glare, and
vanity; if we are not deceived by gaud and shadow, —the fustian which covers an
upright soul is a garb of honor; and that is the most kingly sheen which clothes
the most kingly worth.