BETA

The Quaker’s Lament.

[The subject of the following poem will best be gathered from the entry in
the notice-sheet of the House of Commons of 7th May last. We do not
disguise our delight at finding that Mr. Bright is about to take up the cause of
protection in any portion of Her Majesty’s dominions ; and although his sym-
pathies seem to bare been awakened at a considerable distance from the
metropolis, we are not without hope that the tide will set in, decidedly and
strongly, towards the point where it is most especially needed. It is, at all
events, refreshing to know that the Ryots of India have secured the services
of so powerful and determined a champion, who has now ample leisure, owing
to the general dulness of trade, to do every justice to their cause.
Mr. Bright,—That an humble address be presented to her Majesty,
praying her Majesty to appoint a commission to proceed to India, to inquire
into the obstacles which prevent an increased growth of cotton in that country,
and to report upon any circumstances which may injuriously affect the econo-
mical and industrial condition of the native population, being cultivators of
the soil within the presidencies of Bombay and Madras. Tuesday 14th May.”]

I.

All the mills were closed in Rochdale,1
Shut the heavy factory door ;2
Old and young had leave to wander,3
There was work for them no more.4
In the long deserted chambers5
Idly stood tke luckless loom,6
Silent rose the ghastly chimney7
Guiltless of its former fume.8

II.

Near a brook that leaped rejoicing,9
Freed once more from filthy dye,10
Dancing in the smokeless sunlight,11
Babbling as it wandered by12
Walked a middle-aged Free-trader,13
Forwards, backwards, like a crab :14
And his brow was clothed with sorrow,15
And his nether-man with drab.16

III.

Chewing cud of bitter fancies,17
Dreaming of the by-gone time,18
Sauntered there the downcast Quaker19
Till he heard the curfew chime.20
Then a hollow laugh escaped him :21
Let the fellows have their will22
With a dwindling crop of cotton,23
They may ask a Five-hours Bill !24

IV.

Side by side I’ve stood with Cobden,25
Roared with him for many a year,26
And our only theme was cheapness,27
And we swore that bread was dear ;28
And we made a proclamation29
Touching larger pots of beer,30
Till the people hoarsely answered31
With a wild approving cheer.32

V.

Did we not denounce the landlords33
As a ravening locust crew ?34
Did we not revile the yeomen,35
And the rough-shod peasants too ?36
Clodpoles, louts, and beasts of burden,37
Asses, dolts, and senseless swine38
These were our familiar phrases39
In the days of auld-langsyne.40

VI.

And at length we gained the battle :41
Oh, how proudly did I feel,42
When the praise was all accorded43
To my brother chief by Peel !44
But I did not feel so proudly45
At the settling of the fee46
Cobden got some sixty thousand—47
Not a stiver came to me !48

VII.

Well, they might have halved the money—49
Yet I know not—and who cares ?50
After all, the free disposal51
Of the gather’d fund was theirs :52
And it is some consolation53
In this posture of affairs,54
To reflect that twas invested55
In the shape of railway shares !56

VIII.

O, away, ye pangs of envy !57
Wherefore dwell on such a theme,58
Since a second grand subscription59
Is, I know, a baseless dream ?60
Haunt me not with flimsy fancies—61
Soul, that should be great and free !62
Yet—they gave him sixty thousand,63
Not a pennypiece to me !64

IX.

But I threw my spirit forwards,65
As an eagle cleaves the sky,66
Glaring at the far horizon67
With a clear unflinching eye.68
Visions of transcendent brightness69
Rose before my fancy still,70
And the comely earth seemed girdled71
With a zone from Rochdale Mill.72

X.

And I saw the ports all opened,73
Every harbour free from toll :74
Countless myriads craving shirtings75
From the Indies to the pole.76
Lapland’s hordes inspecting cotton,77
With a spermaceti smile,78
And Timbuctoo’s tribes demanding79
Bright’s ‘domestics’ by the mile !80

XI.

O the bliss, the joy Elysian !81
O the glory ! O the gain !82
Never, sure, did such a vision83
Burst upon the poet’s brain !84
Angel voices were proclaiming85
That the course of trade was free,86
And the merchants of the Indies87
Bowed their stately heads to me !88

XII.

Out, alas ! my calculation89
Was, I know, too quickly made ;90
Even sunlight casts a shadow,91
There is gloom in briskest trade.92
I forgot one little item—93
Though the fact of course I knew,94
For I never had considered95
Where it was that cotton grew.96

XIII.

Wherefore in this northern valley,97
Where the ploughshare tears the sod,98
Spring not up spontaneous bushes99
Laden with the precious pod ?100
What an Eden were this island,101
If beside the chimney-stalk102
Raw material might be gathered,103
Freely of an evening walk !104

XIV.

But alas, we cannot do it.105
And the Yankee—fiends confound him ! —106
Grins upon us, o’er the ocean,107
With his bursting groves around him.108
And these good-for-nothing Negroes109
Are so very slow at hoeing,110
That their last supply of cotton111
Will not keep our mills a-going112

XV.

Also, spite of Cobden’s speeches113
Made in every foreign land,114
Which, ’ tis true, the beastly natives115
Did not wholly understand,116
Hostile tariffs still are rising,117
Duties laid on twist and twine ;118
And the wild pragmatic Germans119
Hail with shouts their Zollverein.120

XVI.

They, like madmen, seem to fancy121
That a nation, to be great,122
Should as surely shield the workman123
As the highest in the state :124
And they’d rather raise their taxes125
From the fruits of foreign labour,126
Than permit, as nature dictates,127
Each man to devour his neighbour.128

XVII.

So my golden dreams have vanished,129
All my hopes of gain are lost ;130
Fresh accounts of glutted markets131
Come with each successive post.132
And I hear the clodpoles mutter133
As they pass me in the street,134
That they can’t afford to purchase,135
At the present rate of wheat.136

XVIII.

Well, I care not—tis no matter !137
My machines won’t eat me up ;138
And the people on the poor-rates139
Have my perfect leave to sup.140
Let the land provide subsistence141
For the children of the soil,142
I am forced to feed my engines143
With a daily cruise of oil.144

XIX.

Ha !  a bright idea strikes me !145
’Tis the very thing, huzza !146
I have somewhere heard that cotton147
May be cultured in Bombay.148
Zooks !  it is a splendid notion !149
Dicky Cobden is an ass.150
Wherefore should we pay the Yankees151
Whilst Great Britain holds Madras ?152

XX.

Cotton would again be cultured153
If, with a benignant hand,154
Fair protection were afforded155
To the tillers of the land.156
’Tis a sin and shame, we know not157
Where our real riches lie ;158
Yes !  they shall have just protection,159
Else I’ll know the reason why.160

XXI.

Surely some obscene oppression,161
Weighs the natives’ labour down,162
Or their energies are palsied163
By a tyrant master’s frown.164
To my heart the blood is gushing—165
Righteous tears bedew my cheek166
Parliament shall know their burdens,167
Ere I’m older by a week !168

XXII.

Ha !  those fine devoted fellows !169
’Twere a black and burning shame,170
If we let the Yankees swamp them171
In their mean exclusive game.172
I have always held the doctrine,173
Since my public life begun,174
That it was our bounden duty175
To take care of Number One.176

XXIII.

What ! —allow the faithful Indian177
To be crushed : in cotton-growing ?178
O forbid it, truthful Wilson !179
O refuse it, saintly Owen !180
Have their claims been disregarded ?181
There is life within a mussel ;182
And I’ve got a kind of bridle183
On the neck of Johnny Russell.184

XXIV.

I shall move a special motion,185
Touching this o’erlooked affair :186
El-Dorado would be nothing :187
To the wealth that waits us there.188
Let us get a fair protection189
For our native Indian niggers,190
And, I think, the Rochdale mill-book191
Would display some startling figures !192

XXV.

Ha ! Ive got another notion !193
Things are rather dull at home,194
And I feel no fixed objection,195
In my country’s cause to roam.196
It is needful that some cautious197
Hand should undertake the task,198
Hum—there must be a commission—199
Well—I’ve only got to ask.200

XXVI.

They’ll be rather glad to spare me,201
In thet prveant precious fix :202
Charley Wood is somewhat shakey203
With his recent dodge on bricks.204
Palmerston’s in hottest water,205
What with France, and what with Greece ;206
As for little Juggling Johnny207
He’ll pay anything for peace.208

XXVIII.

Faith, I’ll do it ! were it only209
As a most conclusive thick,210
And a hint unto our fellows211
That I’m quite as good as Dick.212
Hang him !  since he’s made orations,213
In a sort of mongrel French,214
One would think he’s almost equal215
To Lord Campbell on the bench.216

XXVIII.

Time it is our course were severed ;217
Tm for broad distinctions now.218
Since my mills are fairly stoppaged,219
At another shrine I bow,220
Send me only out to India221
On this patriotic scheme,222
And I’ll show them how protection223
Is a fact, and not a dream.”224