A mine spread out its vast machinery.
Here engines with their huts and smoky stacks,
Cranks, wheels, and rods, boilers and hissing steam,
Pressed up the water from the depths below.
Here fire-whims ran till almost out of breath,
And chains cried sharply, strained with fiery force.
Here blacksmiths hammered by the sooty forge,
And there a crusher crashed the copper ore.
Here girls were cobbing under roofs of straw,
And there were giggers at the oaken hutch.
Here a man-engine glided up and down,
A blessing and a boon to mining men:
And near the spot, where many years before,
Turned round and round the rude old water wheel,
A huge fire-stamps was working evermore,
And slimy boys were swarming at the trunks.
The noisy lander by the trap-door bawled
With pincers in his hand; and troops of maids
With heavy hammers brake the mineral stones.
The cart-man cried, and shook his broken whip;
And on the steps of the account-house stood
The active agent, with his eye on all.
Below were caverns grim with greedy gloom,
And levels drunk with darkness; chambers huge
Where Fear sat silent, and the mineral-sprite
For ever chanted his bewitching song;
Shafts deep and dreadful, looking darkest things
And seeming almost running down to doom;
Rock under foot, rock standing on each side;
Rock cold and gloomy, frowning overhead;
Before; behind, at every angle, rock.
Here blazed a vein of precious copper ore,
Where lean men laboured with a zeal for fame,
With face and hands and vesture black as night,
And down their sides the perspiration ran
In steaming eddies, sickening to behold.
But they complained not, digging day and night,
And morn and eve, with lays upon their lips.
Here yawned a tin-cell like a cliff of crags,
Here Danger lurked among the groaning rocks,
And oftimes moaned in darkness. All the air
Was black with sulphur and burning up the blood.
A nameless mystery seemed to fill the void,
And wings all pitchy flapped among the flints,
And eyes that saw not sparkled min the spars.
Yet here men worked, on stages hung in ropes,
With drills and hammers blasting the rude earth,
Which fell with such a crash that he who heard
Cried, “Jesu, save the miner!” Here were the ends
Cut through hard marble by the miners’ skill,
And winzes, stopes and rizes: pitches here,
Where worked the heroic, princely tributer,
This month for nothing, next for fifty pounds.
Here lodes ran wide, and there so very small
That scarce a pick-point could be pressed between;
Here making walls as smooth as polished steel,
And there as craggy as a rended hill.
And out of sparry vagues the water oozed,
Staining the rock with mineral, so that oft
It led the labourer to a house of gems.
Across the mine a hollow cross-course ran
From north to south, an omen of much good;
And tin lay heaped on stulls and level-plots;
And in each nook a tallow taper flared,
Where pale men wasted with exhaustion huge.
Here holes exploded, and there mallets rang,
And rocks fell crashing, lifting the stiff hair
From time-worn brows, and noisy buckets roared
In echoing shafts; and through this gulf of gloom
A hollow murmur rushed for evermore.
by John Harris
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