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Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism 1883-1908 . Nesbit, E. (Edith), 1858–1924.
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page: 24

Two Voices

Country

  • ‘SWEET are the lanes and the hedges, the fields made red with the clover,
  • With tall field‐sorrel, and daisies, and golden buttercups glowing;
  • Sweet is the way through the woods, where at sundown maiden and lover
  • Linger by stile or by bank where clematis garlands are growing.
  • Fair is our world when the dew and the dawn thrill the half‐wakened roses,
  • Fair when the corn‐fields grown warm with poppies in noonlight gleaming,
  • Fair through the long afternoon, when hedges and hayfields lie dreaming,
  • Fair as in lessening light the last convolvulus closes.
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  • ‘Scent of geranium and musk that in cottage windows run riot,
  • Breath from the grass that is down in the meadows each side the highway,
  • Slumberous hush of the churchyard where we one day may lie quiet,
  • Murmuring wind through the leaves bent over the meadow byway,
  • Deeps of cool shadow, and gleams of light on high elmtops shining,
  • Such peace in the dim green brake as the town, save in dreams, knows never,
  • But in, through, under it all, the old pain follows us ever—
  • Ever the old despair, the old unrest and repining.
  • ‘Dark is the City’s face; but her children who know her find her
  • Mother to them who are brothers, mindful of brotherhood’s duty;
  • To each of us, lonely, unhelped, the grave would be warmer, kinder,
  • Than the cold unloving face of our world of blossom and beauty.
  • Poverty deep and dark cowers under the thatch with the swallows,
  • Cruel disease lies hid in the changeful breast of the waters,
  • Drink sets snares for our sons, and shame digs graves for our daughters,
  • Want and care crush the flower of a youth that no life‐fruit follows.
  • ‘What are the woodland sweets, the meadow’s fair flowery treasure,
  • When we are hungry and sad, and stupid with work and with sorrows?
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  • Leisure for nothing but sleep, and with heart but for sleep in our leisure;
  • The work of to‐day still the same as yesterday’s work, and to‐morrow’s.
  • Ever the weary round—the treadmill of innocent lives—
  • Hopeless and helpless, and bowing our back like a hound’s to the lashes;
  • What can seem fair to the eyes that are smarting and sore with the ashes
  • Blown from the fires that consume the souls of our children and wives?
  • ‘Dreams sometimes we have had of an hour when we might speak plainly,
  • Raise the mantle and show how the iron eats into our bosom,
  • The rotting root of the Nation, the worm at the heart of its blossom,
  • Dreaming we said, “We will speak, when the time for it comes, not vainly.”
  • Ah—but the time comes never—Life, we are used to bear it,
  • Starved are our brains and grow not, our hands are fit but for toiling,
  • If we stretched them out their touch to our masters’ hand would be soiling;
  • Weak is our voice with disuse—too weak for our lords to hear it!’

City

  • ‘So has the spark died out that the torch of hope dropped among you?
  • So is the burden bound more fast to the shrinking shoulder?
  • Far too faint are your cries to be heard by the men who wrong you?
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  • And if they heard they are high, and the air as men rise grows colder!
  • Yet you are men though so weak, and in mine and workshop your brothers,
  • Stronger in head, and in heart not less sad, for deliverance are striving;
  • These will stand fast, and will face the cruel unjust and ungiving,
  • And you in our ranks shall be, our hearts fast clasped in each other’s!
  • ‘For in the night of our sorrow cold lights are breaking and brightening
  • Out in the eastern sky; through the drifting clouds, wind‐driven,
  • Over the earth new gleams and glories are laughing and lightening,
  • Keener the air grows, clearer; brighter the face of the heaven.
  • Turn we our face to the east—oh, wind of the dawn, blow to us
  • Freshness and strength and resolve! The star of old faith grows paler
  • Before the eyes of our Freedom, though still wrath’s red mists veil her,
  • For this is our battle day; revenge, like our blood, runs through us.
  • ‘This is our vengeance day. Our masters, made fat with our fasting,
  • Shall fall before us like corn when the sickle for harvest is strong:
  • Old wrong shall give might to our arm—remembrance of wrong shall make lasting
  • The graves we will dig for the tyrants we bore with too much and too long.
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  • The sobs of our starving children, the tears of our heartsick mothers,
  • The moan of your murdered manhood crushed out by their wanton pressure,
  • The wail of the life‐long anguish that paid the price of their pleasure,
  • These will make funeral music to speed the lost souls of them, brothers!
  • ‘Shoulder to shoulder we march, and for those who go down ’mid the fighting
  • With rifles in hand and pikes, and the red flag over them flying,
  • Glad shall our hearts be for them—who die when our sun is lighting
  • The warm, wide heavens, and sheds its lovely light on their dying.
  • Fight, though we lose our dearest—fight, though the battle rages
  • Fiercer and hotter than ever was fight in the world before:
  • We must fight—how can men do less? If we die, what can men do more?
  • And the sun of Freedom shall shine across our graves to the ages!’
1886.
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