Poem: The Hartley Calamity, by Joseph Skipsey


The Hartley Calamity,  by Joseph Skipsey (1832 - 1903)

 

The Hartley men are noble, and 

Ye'll hear a tale of woe;

I'll tell the doom of the Hartley men -

The year of sixty two.

 

'Twas on the Thursday morning, on

The first month of the year,

When there befell the thing that well

May rend the heart to hear.

 

Ere chanticleer with music rare

Awakes the old homestead,

The Hartley men are up and off

To earn their daily bread.

 

On, on they toil; with heat they broil,

And streams of sweat still glue

The stour unto their skins, till they

Are black as the coal they hew.

 

Now to and fro the putters go,

The waggons to and fro,

And clang on clang the wheel and hoof

Ring in the mine below.

 

The din and strife of human life.

Awake in 'wall' and 'board',

When, lo! a shock is felt which makes

Each human heart-beat heard.

 

Each bosom thuds, as each his duds

He snatches and away,

And to the distant shaft he flees

With all the speed he may.

 

Each, all, they flee -- by two -- by three

They seek the shaft, to seek

An answer in each other's face,

To what they may not speak.

 

"Are we entombed?" they seem to ask,

For the shaft is closed, and no

Escape have they to God's bright day

From out the night below.

 

So stand in pain the Hartley men,

And o'er them speedily comes

The memory of home and all

That links us to our homes.

 

Despair at length renews their strength,

And they the shaft must clear,

And soon the sound of mall and pick,

Half drowns the voice of fear.

 

And hark! to the blow of the mal below

Do the sounds above reply?

Hurra, hurra, for the Hartley men,

For now their rescue's nigh.

 

Their rescue nigh? The sound of joy

And hope have ceased, and ere

A breath is drawn a rumble heard

Re-drives them to despair.

 

Together now behold them bow;

Their burden'd souls unload

In cries that never rise in vain

Unto the living God.

 

Whilst yet they kneel, again they fell

Their strength renewed -- again

The swing and the ring of the mall attests

The might of the Hartley men.

 

And hark! to the blow of the mall below,

Do sounds above reply?

Hurra, hurra, for the Hartley men,

For now their rescue's nigh.

 

But lo! yon light, erewhile so bright

No longer lights the scene;

A cloud of mist yon light has kiss'd

And shorn it of its sheen.

 

A cloud of mist yon light has kiss'd,

See! how long it steels,

Till one by one the lights are smote,

And deep the doom prevails.

 

"Oh, father, till the shaft is rid,

Close, close besides me keep;

My eyelids are together glued,

And I - and I - must sleep".

 

Sleep, darling, sleep, and I will keep

Close by - heigh-ho!" To keep

Himself awake the father strives

But he - he too - must sleep."

 

"O, brother, till the shaft is rid,

Close, close besides me keep;

My eyelids are together glued,

And I - and I - must sleep."

 

Sleep, brother, sleep and I will keep

Close by - heigh-ho! To keep

Half awake the brother strives

But he - he too must sleep.

 

"O mother, dear! wert, wert thou near

Whilst sleep!" And the orphan slept;

And all night long by the black pit heap

The mother a dumb watch kept

 

And fathers, and mothers, and sisters, and brothers,

The lover and the new-made bride --

A vigil kept for those who slept,

From eve to morning tide.

 

But they slept - still - in silence dread,

Two hundred old and young,

To awake when heaven and earth have sped

And the last dread trumpet rung. 

 

Joseph Skipsey

  Co-Curate Page
Hartley Colliery Disaster, 1862
- Overview About the Disaster On the 16th January, 1862, 204 men and boys were killed in a mining accident at Hester Pit of Hartley Colliery. The massive beam of the pit's ...

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