26 February 2011

Henry Hogg (1831-74): Nottingham Poet

The grave of the forgotten poet Henry Hogg (1831–74) is in the General Cemetery, Nottingham, England, very close to Robert Millhouse's. He was baptized in Radford, Nottingham shortly after his birth, and was the son of Joseph Hogg, who was in the hosiery trade. Henry was raised and educated in Nottingham and became a solicitor at various addresses in Nottingham.

In 1849 he published his first poem -– 'Mournful Recollections' – which was in blank verse. Some rather disparaging words have been written about him by people who know very little of what they profess to know,  but he was of his time, and it is difficult to imagine anyone who wasn't writing in the very long and deep shadow of Tennyson. He died of lung disease at his home in Elm Avenue, Nottingham, on 19 June 1874.

He published two books of poems: Poems (1852), and Songs for the Times (1856).

Hogg was a staunch evangelist, and his religious principles shine through all his poetry. His second collection of poems show life as a battle against the sin of idleness, with typical titles such as 'The Spirit of Labour', 'Our Duty', and 'The Battle of Life'.

'The Workers' is not about the working class, but about working for God:

'Some are the messengers that boldly stand
   Within the holy place;
And speak God's words of threatening and command,
   Of mercy, and of grace.

'And some are poets, and recite the wrongs
   That man inflicts on man;
They teach the truth that each to each belongs,
   And not to class or clan.

In 'England's Slavery', he does indeed 'recite the wrongs' of the appalling conditions under which many of the working class toiled in the industrial revolution:

'Labour is dignified and grand,
      And elevates our race;
But there are thousands in the land,
That groan beneath a cruel hand;
Driven like a servile band,
      In slavish fetters base.

'There are, whom life no blessing gave,
       Within this land of light;
Harder than ere was lot of slave;
They toil and toil, and vainly crave
Respite, - none until the grave,
       No respite day or night.

'Body and soul completely crushed,
       Beneath the murderous yolk;
Cheek white, that should with health be flushed;
Heart dead, whence feeling might have gushed;
Conscience into stupor hushed,
       That once in warning spoke.

'In shop, in mill, in attic bare,
       Alone, or closely packed,
Are men that toil in toil's despair;
And women who were once more fair;
Breathing foul distempered air.
       With bone and body racked.

'O masters, is it just or right
       That these should toil and slave,
All though the day, deep in the night,
In rooms shut out from common light,
Reeking with all moral blight,
       And dismal as the grave?

'O make not slaves of men who stand
       Upon the same free soil;
Give time to lift the praying hand;
To keep the day of God's command;
And sweep away this curse and brand,
       Of slavish human toil.'

Hogg is also concerned about the double sexual standard of the time, in which a 'fallen woman' could usually only resort to prostitution for her livelihood, whereas there is no such thing as a fallen man. This is a verse from 'The Fallen':

'But the man, who like a cruel fiend, her mortal ruin plotted,
Mixes in the world's great crowd, with name and fame unspotted;
Society still welcomes him, who ne'er was from it driven,
Smiling on his brow, but flinging her the curse of heaven.'

Pleasure is considered as timewasting, and though there is only one temperance poem in the collection, 'The Song of Wine' – because of the sheer toll of alcohol on human lives – unequivocally states that it is worse than 'Famine, Plague and War'.

Much 19th century writing is obsessed with the medieval era, which was seen as a utopian time, and today of course the neo-Gothic churches in England testify to this cult of medievalism. In 'The New Age', with a fleeting nod to Robin Hood, Hogg gives his take on the situation:

'Old romance is fled away,
     And the age of chivalry;
Shepherd pipes no longer play.
     In deep vales of Arcady.
Mail-clad knights no more are seen,
Outlaws fail from forest green,
Nymph, and fawn, and fairy queen,
     Have departed utterly.

'Now we hear the whirring wheels,
     Of the vast machinery;
Labour with stout workmen fills,
     Mine and forge and factory.
Merchants store their merchandise,
Art her busy fingers plies,
Steam propels and language flies
     To the world's extremity.

'Brothers, in the whirl and speed,
     Of this age of energy;
Lest our lives should shame our creed.
     Let us pray more fervently.
Onward with the new age move,
Talent, skill, and zeal, and love,
Consecrate to God above,
     With a true fidelity'.

Writers and literary associations in Nottingham General Cemetery:
Robert Goodacre (1777–1835)
Ruth Bryan (1805–1860)
Sarah Ann Agnes Turk (1859–1927)
Annie Matheson (1853–1924)
Josiah Gilbert (1814–1892)
Anthony Hervey (c. 1796–1850)
Charles Bell Taylor (1829–1909)
James Prior's Parents
Ann Taylor (1782–1866)
Robert Millhouse (1788-1839)

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