The Short-Lived Grinder
The below poem appeared in The Village Patriarch, a book published in 1829 by Ebenezer Elliott in which he writes poetry as a history and political commentary of the times. In the poem, he mentions many aspects of the Sheffield cutlery trade while he is out on a walk with his friend Enoch Wray.
Unknown author, photography credit: Rotherham Museums and Galleries
Pleas’d stops the wanderer on his way, to see
The frequent wier oppose your heedless haste.
Where toils the Mill, by ancient woods embrac'd,
Hark, how the cold steel screams in hissing fire!
But Enoch sees the Grinder's wheel no more,
Couch'd beneath rocks and forests, that admire?
Their beauty in the waters, ere they roar .
Dash 'd in white foam the swift circumference o’er.
There draws the Grinder his laborious breath;
There, coughing, at his deadly trade he bends;
Born to die young, he fears nor man nor death;
Scorning the future, what he earns he spends;
Debauch and riot are his bosom friends.
He plays the tory , sultan -like and well:
Woe to the traitor that dares disobey
The Dey of Straps! as ratten ’d tools shall tell:
Full many a lordly freak , by night, by day,
Illustrates gloriously his lawless sway.
Behold his failings! Hath he virtues, too?
He is no pauper, blackguard though he be;
Full well he knows what minds combin'd can do,
Full well maintains his birthright — He is free,
And, frown for frown , outstares monopoly .
Yet Abraham and Elliot, both in vain,
Bid science on his cheek prolong the bloom:
He will not live! he seems in haste to gain
The undisturb ’d asylum of the tomb,
And, old at two-and-thirty, meets his doom!
Man of a hundred years, how unlike thee!
Image from Illustrated London News - 1866