Free Trade (Lothersdale Lead Mine)


The scar remains, two centuries on:

A sterile field, a poisoned rock.

The dust in summer, streams in spring,

Still thick with arsenic, lead and zinc.


A hundred families mined the ore,

They scraped their living coughing blood.

Salvation came in crusts of bread

And praying for the skylark’s song.


But far away the freedom flowed,

And wealth and light and flowers bloomed.

In silk and satin, trade and faith,

The spirit of the age was writ.


So hollow are those words of joy

When carved in stone on children’s graves.


15 Comments to “Free Trade (Lothersdale Lead Mine)”

  1. **************
    Salvation came in crusts of bread

    And praying for the skylark’s song.
    Does the skylark signify day or rain?

    • it is an opposite, a freedom. The skylark spirals upwards singing, the miners headed downwards. I had a thought that sometimes the miners might hear the song as they descended – and more wonderfully, as they returned.
      It is also the polar opposite of the system which created the mine in the first place.

  2. When I was finding out about my Cornish ancestors, I learned all the children, girls and boys, were working in the mines, all except my great-great grandfather. On the census he was listed as a scholar so somehow he escaped this underground death. Then he sailed to America. So, I really like this poem. I will now think of my g-g-grandpa as a skylark.

  3. This truly is very sad.. the health of so many miners being destroyed by their need to feed their families. And then the children’s graves. A strong write; and thank you for taking part in Poetry Pantry.

  4. So sad, how many people have endured such things. A beautiful, painful portrayal of hardship.

  5. Whew…what an excellent write. History is so often written in blood…great piece, so moving.

  6. What a wonderful poem, beautiful rendering of a tragic way to earn a living. Well done!

  7. Lovely poetry on a seroious and grave subject. Well done

  8. So many stories such as this one, of exploitation and sickness at the price of mining. You told yours without sentiment – the emotion is very real.

  9. Wow this really hits the reader hard, excellent ending. The rich get richer off the sweat and blood of the poor.

  10. I, too, was struck by the skylark lines……..and your powerful closing. Their lives were so harsh. Yet am sure their eyes and their dreams sought the sky.

  11. Your powerful imagery illustrates the truth of many an industry’s success. Prosperity is often built on the backs of “the least of them.”

  12. Good god you have an excellent grasp of rhythm and tone. Such a timeless feel to many of your pieces here. Once again, a fine, well-crafted read.

  13. A beautiful write – and I agree the rhythm is excellent.

    Anna :o]

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