Thursday, 16 May 2013

In the Factory by Maude Egerton Hine

From Maude's collection, Poems (Hine, Maude Egerton, Privately Printed, 1885), this one in particular stands out, and indicates that Maude was thinking about looms and their sociological impact on the worker a few years before she published this poem aged 18.  It also reminds of her sister, Ethel Blount, and husband, Godfrey Blount's later association with the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union.

Lancashire Victorian factories
"[This poem was suggested by a notice which appeared in one of the papers a few years ago, the gist of which was, that in consequence of the great demand for foreign materials, the Bradford looms were standing still and the people were starving.]

There is quiet in the place, and the silent looms,
Stand useless and grim in the empty rooms;
But the hush of the quiet with trouble is rife
For the people who wearily wait without;
Their rest means starving, their work means life.

Their faces are hopeless, their clothing is torn,
And the heart of the bravest is bruised and forlorn,
For these hundreds here starve by one foolish whim,
For Fashion and Folly of Riches born
Have crushed the people, and made them mourn!

They pray in their need for the smallest task,
And see - at the answer to what they ask,
The desperate tears will gain their way,
Though never a sob may be heard aloud!
Then they push back through the silent crowd.

There is quiet in the place, and the silent looms
Stand useless and grim in the empty rooms;
And the people without may wait and starve,
Their hearts may weary, their hearts may ache
Their hearts may madden until they break!
For Fashion has willed it shall be so,
And Fashion rules fools, and fools abound
On too many breadths of English ground!
Let them look to the horror that they have wrought,
The sin and the heart-ache, by lack of thought,
And then just for once let Fashion go,
For Fashion weighs lighter than human woe;
- O shame! to be told of a civilised age
Counted as Christian, counted as sage,
That it left the toilers that clothe the land
To read their doom from a fashion-page!"

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