This poem was printed in Punch Magazine in 1862. In the early 19th century Luddites attacked the factory machines that were about to destroy the cottage industry of handloom weavers. By 1815, these weavers had difficulty finding work. They tried selling their cloth at lower prices than the factories, with the result that their average wages plummeted from 21 s to less than 9 s in 1817, the year of Jane Austen’s death. By 1850, handloom weavers had been reduced to starvation wages. In light of their plight, this poem, which contrasts the wistful observances of the lowly weaver against the lavish lifestyle of the Ton, becomes all the more poignant.
SPITALFIELDS AND HYDE PARK.
A Little “Weaver, unemployed,
Chanced in Hyde Park to stray,
And there, as best he might, enjoyed
The great folks being now in Town,
He strolled, and viewed their show,
Around the Ring, and up and down
The walk by Rotten Row.
What high-bred cavaliers were there,
Straight-backed, and clean of limb;
What horsewomen, superbly fair,
Displayed their airs to him!
What equipages Beauty bore.
And Consequence, reclined,
Whom portly coachmen sat before;
Smart footmen stood behind!
The little man, admiring, read
The faces of the Great,
Who passed him with erected head,
And countenance elate,
High fed, from sordid want secure,
From cares and troubles mean,
How brave their bearing, to be sure,
Their aspect how serene!
A heart our little weaver had
In others’ joy that shared.
Himself though hungry, he was glad
To think how well they fared.
It raised him in his self-respect
To see how riches can,
With nurture in a sphere select,
Exalt his fellow-man.
If, entering on this earthly scene,
Endowed with Fortune’s boon, His infant lips he had between
But held a silver spoon, He thought he also might have shone
Amongst the grand and gay, Then being out of work alone,
Not likewise out of pay.
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