"Men Must Work, And Women Must Weep"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230

Context: Besides his religious tracts, the Reverend Charles Kingsley wrote poetry and historical novels. Water-Babies (1863) was his contribution to children's literature. His poem, "Sands of Dee," is the one best remembered today. "The Three Fishers," published in Andromeda and Other Poems, which inspired Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar," grew out of an incident in Kingsley's life as a preacher. Asked to preach a sermon to working men, he chose as his topic "The Message of the Church to Laboring Men." He stressed the equality of man and the brotherhood of rich and poor. At the conclusion, one of the congregation rose to voice his belief that there is a wide gap between classes. That evening, Kingsley wrote this tragic poem of three fishermen who went out to earn for their families, only to be caught in a squall and rolled up dead on the beach the next morning. Each stanza ends with the refrain, applicable to all classes, that man must labor and that sorrows come to the woman. It begins:

Three fishers went sailing away to the West,
Away to the West as the sun went down;
Each thought on the woman who loved him the best;
And the children stood watching them out of the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And there's little to earn, and many to keep,
Though the harbor bar be moaning.

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