William Howorth: The Cry of the Poor

A fragment of The Cry of the Poor by Brighouse-born poet William Howorth

The bustling mother plied her busy wheel,
And only paused to spread each frugal meal,
Or nicely sand the floor; or range, with pride,
Her crockery in the 'delf case' side by side;
Or rub the oaken chest till she might trace
Reflected on its polished sides her face;
Or trim the myrtle and geranium red,
That gaily o'er the narrow windows spread;
Or called, reminded by its grunting cry,
To feed the hog that fattened in the sty;
Or roused to whirl the good-man's worn out hat
To scare the chickens from the garden plat.
In nice prim cap, blue apron, kerchief fair,
His partner sate in her well-cushioned chair,
With feigned sternness in her look, the while
Lurked on her lip a kind good-humoured smile,
Teaching the girls to sew, and darn, and knit,
That they might be for thrifty housewives fit;
And when those great accomplishments were gained,
To work the sampler only then remained,
That they, with honour crowned, the school might leave,
Its subject sure – "The Serpent tempting Eve;"
Full in the front the fatal apple there
With all the hues of Joseph's coat did glare;
There too was Eve, for uncouth rhymes below,
To those who doubted did the fact avow,
And none could miss the Tempter to behold,
With scarlet eyes, blue body, tail of gold;
Then last, the needle's triumph to complete,
And give to Fame, as surely was most meet,
The skilful sempstress, letters small and great,
With strange queer things for figures, did relate
Her name and age; thenceforth in jet-black frame
Extended out, th' achievement grand did claim,
Chief ornament, the cottage Avails to grace,
Above King Charles's rules – its rightful place – 
To be at once the wonder and the praise
Of gossips born and rear'd in less learned days.

© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 13:12 / 19th January 2022 / 3576

Page Ref: X441

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