Project Canterbury

Songs and Ballads for Manufacturers

By the Rev. John Mason Neale

London: Joseph Masters, 1850.

III. The Figure-Weavers.

The bright wild-flowers! The sweet wild-flowers! 'Tis seldom we can see,
Who dwell in these dark city streets, how beautiful they be:
But He, we know, Who bade them blow on mountain or in wood,
Appointeth us our place below;--and all He doth is good!

We seldom taste,--for us they waste,--the breath of their perfume;
But all the brightness of their tints we borrow for the loom:
The fields and bowers must lose their flowers in Autumn's slow decay;
November is as good for ours as the sun and dew of May!

Firm hand we task, quick eye we ask, and patient heart as well;
And many a wheel, and many a reel, beyond what I can tell:
Four rules our English workmen have, four golden laws they give,
And he must mind them, one and all, by weaving that would live.

Gently the treadle to the ground, or else the warp will crack;
Softly the shuttle through the race, or else the shoot may slack;
Each time you bring the batten down, your force must be the same;
And he that sees the warp-threads go, and stops not, is to blame.

Long live the men of Coventry! His eyes are hard to please,
Who will not own that, out and out, they beat the Lyonnese:
Our looms are just as fast as theirs,--our men as good as they;
Some say they match us in their flowers; and that we'll see to-day.

Here is the rose we'll try upon,--its leaves are white as milk;
'Twill be no jot less fair, I wot, transplanted into silk:
Pass seven, take two; pass seven, take four; now turn the piece about;
Pass three, take five; pass eight, take six; our rose will soon be out.

Well! this I say; in such a day of murmurs and intrigues,
Of Socialists and Chartists and Delegates and Leagues,
Let him who will turn Radical, and fling aside all rules;
When weavers do, their very looms may laugh and call them fools.

What! all be head, and none be tail! A pretty thing 'twould be
If e'er our tools should take the freak to do the same as we:
Fancy the yarn-roll setting up to get above the frame!
Fancy the treadles thinking scorn to work below the lame!

'I'm far too good,' the shuttle cries, 'for that vile shuttle-race;'
'Just shift your feet,' the treadle says, 'to some more proper place;'
'My end is dark,' the cloth-beam growls; 'I'll choose a better spot;'
'And mine,' remarks the shuttle-race, 'is just as much too hot.'

'Why, all the works must stop,' you say: well, so they must--what then?
Why may not looms turn Radicals as reasonably as men?
I'll work away both night and day before I'm one, that's flat:--
And now, sir, did you ever see a bonnier rose than that?

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