"The Short And Simple Flannels Of The Poor"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Typical of many of Morley's poems picturing the simple vicissitudes of home life, this poem playfully treats one of its uncomfortable aspects. However, the grave matter of this poem, a parody on Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard," is nothing more serious than the problems caused by an empty coal-bin. The line, "The short and simple flannels of the poor," is a parody on one of the better-known lines of Gray's poem, "The short and simple annals of the poor." Though the calamity of an empty coal-bin will not rob the world of "some mute inglorious Milton" or prove the fate of all men, it causes its discomforts. "The furnace tolls the knell of falling steam," the coal is almost depleted, and another ton cannot be afforded. The house is getting cold, and, worst of all, there will be no fire for cooking again "till coal is cheap." "Though in the icebox, fresh and newly laid,/ The rude forefathers of the omelet sleep,/ No eggs for breakfast till the bill is paid." Furthermore, as the room gets colder, no attempt to stay warm avails:

Now fades the glossy, cherished anthracite;
The radiators lose their temperature:
How ill avail, on such a frosty night,
The "short and simple flannels of the poor."