Freedom (Poem)May 31, 2022
Poem by Albert Parsons (20 June 1848 – 11 Nov 1887), one of the martyred working-class leaders of the May Day Movement, that he presented before the Court in Chicago, USA that later sentenced him to death, in the beginning of his statement in October 1886.
Toil and pray! The world cries cold;
Speed thy prayer, for time is gold
At thy door Need’s subtle tread;
Pray in haste! for time is bread.
And thou plow’st and thou hew’st,
And thou rivet’st and sewest,
And thou harvestest in vain;
Speak! O, man; what is thy gain?
Fly’st the shuttle day and night,
Heav’st the ores of earth to light,
Fill’st with treasures plenty’s horn;
Brim’st it o’er with wine and corn.
But who hath thy meal prepared,
Festive garments with thee shared;
And where is thy cheerful hearth,
Thy good shield in battle dearth?
Thy creations round thee see
All thy work, but naught for thee!
Yea, of all the chains alone thy hand forged,
These are thine own.
Chains that round the body cling,
Chains that lame the spirits wing,
Chains that infants’ feet, indeed
Clog! O, workman! Lo! Thy meed.
What you rear and bring to light,
Profits by the idle wight,
What ye weave of diverse hue,
‘Tis a curse-your only due.
What ye build, no room insures,
Not a sheltering roof to yours,
And by haughty ones are trod-
Ye, whose toil their feet hath shod.
Human bees! Has nature’s thrift
Given thee naught but honey’s gift?
See! the drones are on the wing.
Have you lost the will to sting?
Man of labor, up, arise!
Know the might that in thee lies,
Wheel and shaft are set at rest
At thy powerful arm’s behest.
Thine oppressor’s hand recoils
When thou, weary of thy toil,
Shun’st thy plough thy task begun,
When thou speak’st: Enough is done!
Break this two-fold yoke in twain;
Break thy want’s enslaving chain;
Break thy slavery’s want and dread;
Bread is freedom, freedom bread.
Source: Chicago Historical Society