Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

A Lay Of The Tambour Frame

Bending with straining eyes
Over the tambour frame,
Never a change in her weary routine-
Slave in all but the name.
Tambour, ever tambour,
Tambour the wreathing lines
Of 'broidered silk, till beauty's robe
In rainbow lustre shines.
There, with colourless cheek;
There, with her tangling hair;
Still bending low o'er the rickety frame,
Seek, ye will find her there.
Tambour, ever tambour,
With fingers cramped and chill;-
The panes are shattered, and cold the wind
Blows over the eastern hill.
Why quail, my sisters, why,
As ye were abjects vile,
When begging some haughty brother of earth
'To give you leave to toil?'
It is tambour you must,
Naught else you have to do;
Though paupers' dole be of higher amount
Than pay oft earned by you.
No union strikes for you;-
Unshielded and alone,
In the battle of life-a battle it is,
Where virtue is oft o'erthrown.
O working men! O why
Pass ye thus careless by,
Nor give to the working woman's complaint
One word of kind reply?
Selfish, unfeeling men!
Have ye not had your will?
High pay, short hours; yet your cry, like the leech,
Is, Give us, give us still.
She who tambours-tambours
For fifteen hours a day-
Would have shoes on her feet, and dress for church,
Had she a third of your pay.
Sisters, cousins, and aunts
Are they; yet, if not so,
Say, are they not sisters by human ties,
And sympathy's kindly flow?
To them how dear the boon
From brother's hand that came!
It would warm the heart and brighten the eyes,
While bending o'er the frame.
Raise ye a fund to aid
In times of deep distress;
While man helps man, to their sisters in need
Brothers can do no less.
Still the tambourer bends
Wearily o'er the frame.
Patterns oft vary, for fashions will change-
She is ever the same.
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