H.M. Hyndman

Further Reminiscences

Chapter XV
Walter Crane and Robert Blatchford

WHY should it be the fashion even now to declare that Socialists are necessarily ignorant folk who have no sense of decent behaviour and who in advocating the Co-operative Commonwealth are actuated only by envy and greed? Not so long ago the present Home Secretary, Mr. Reginald M‘Kenna, thought proper to say, “Nobody joins the Socialist movement except for what he can get out of it.” This was quite worthy of a Liberal Cabinet Minister. I wrote to him and told him in plain English what his statement was and demanded an apology. But a “politician” who has failed egregiously in every office he has held and has been highly paid for, possesses as of right a whole array of privileges in this country, and one of them is to be able to make any imputation upon outsiders he sees fit, without having the fear before his eyes of being forced to withdraw his remarks or to apologise. Elsewhere, every man, no matter what his position may be in politics, is compelled by universal usage to run some personal risk when he asserts about others what he himself knows not to be true. Should he refuse thus to back up his statements by displaying a modicum of courage, he is regarded by all the world as a person of the most despicable character. Duelling has its drawbacks, I am well aware, but it has a tendency to check unseemly misrepresentation on the part of people who are inclined by nature to calumniate, and who allow free course to their malignity when they feel that they are safeguarded from all danger.

It would be very easy to give an almost interminable list of Socialists who not only have deliberately refused to make anything out of Socialism, but who have stuck to the cause when it inevitably meant for them serious loss in every way. That is nowadays quite unnecessary. All except Liberal Ministers and partisan journalists accept this obvious truth. What, however, is not so commonly admitted is that men of the very highest distinction in art and literature are daily devoting their genius, greatly in most cases to their own detriment, to the advocacy and adornment of Socialism in its fullest sense.

I do not know that it is possible to find at the present time a more eminent instance of this than Walter Crane. Fully a quarter of a century has elapsed since I first had the pleasure of making the acquaintance which quickly ripened into friendship of this great artist and charming man. There is always some difficulty in writing the full truth about an intimate friend while he is living, and enthusiasm for personalities is scarcely a common attribute of Social Democrats. We are, indeed, generally accused, quite untruly as I hope, of belittling our foremost men because we refuse to deify them or to abase ourselves before them as the manner of some is. But in the case of Walter Crane reticence would be out of place. From the first he has done his very utmost to help us in every possible way. Never has he been asked for the service of his brush, his pencil, or his pen, but that he has put his best services freely at the disposal of Socialism without the slightest reward beyond the sincere thanks and high appreciation of his comrades and friends. His splendid cartoons in Justice on May Day and at other times have become the recognised annual artistic records of our movement all over the world. That for the year 1911 seems to me the finest of the whole series.

There is no overcrowding, no excess of elaboration, no need for explanation. The splendid car of international emancipation, surrounded by young men and maidens in gala attire and resplendent in the full glow of health and happiness, goes forth joyously into the future. Here Crane, almost for the first time so far as I can remember, makes perfect use of space as space. This is a very rare faculty. The procession passes on to the coming ages, and we can fill into the scope of atmosphere ahead the realisable glories of our scientific imagination. Black and white never before surely suggested so forcibly a feast of colour to the eye and mind.

And this is but one of a succession of masterpieces in that line which will, I predict, be treasured as invaluable possessions, long after the artist himself and the men and women whom he has helped and encouraged by his genius have passed away. These beautiful forms and lovely faces have given new ideals of what might be in art and in culture, in pleasurable work and active enjoyment to numberless Socialists who had hardly before perhaps comprehended the full possibilities of their own aspirations. The artist herein becomes a prophet and a seer as well as an exponent and satirist of the life of our day. In all this Walter Crane has done unforgettable work.

What a pity it is that there are no means of obtaining a just and noble estimate of an artist’s powers (as well as a sympathetic one) except by the long wait necessary for the verdict of that Court of Final Appeal – Time.

At present the system seems to be, in the case of any one who shows individuality or independence in art, at first to ridicule, underrate, or abuse. If the innovation survives this process – well, the impression gains ground that there must be something in him, and, if he can only struggle on long enough and keep his head above water, the tide may turn in his favour – even to such an extent as to carry the genius on the top of it to quite the other extreme of laudatory appreciation, which may land him eventually in almost as dangerous a position, as regards his artistic safety, as that in which he was first discovered.

Between the bitterness of his enemies and the extravagant eulogies of his friends, it becomes almost as difficult for an artist to find his real latitude and longitude as for a ship in a fog.

This passage from Crane’s own criticism on Whistler is true of art in all time and not merely in our own. Whistler, who had himself to thank for much of the lack of public appreciation during his life, is now made ridiculous when dead by being injudiciously acclaimed as “the greatest artist and most remarkable personality of the nineteenth century.” As a matter of fact, and I met Whistler frequently, his personality was not specially remarkable, and it was only respect for his artistic faculty which kept men from telling him to his face he was an insufferable creature. The really clever things which he “got off,” as his countrymen say, were few in comparison with the bad shots he made in the endeavour to say more of them. As most of his witticisms were malicious, not to say malignant, the impression produced was not favourable to him as a man to forgather with. “Remarkable” also is an elastic word. A person may be remarkable for obesity, or vulgarity, or for beauty or ugliness. Whistler in society was chiefly remarkable for conceit and ill-nature, and he was as sordid in his view of money in relation to his own art as Meissonier. I never had any but pleasant intercourse with him myself, so my judgment of him as an individual is quite unprejudiced. His writings do not impress me, while his art has always looked to me as made up of a few fine things amid a series of straining for effect which achieved little or nothing. But a man has justified his birth and existence if he produces a single masterpiece, and if he leaves behind him several, nobody need care whether he was a remarkable personality, a delightful conversationalist, or an unmitigated nuisance. But Whistler as the greatest artist of the nineteenth century is, as Crane himself evidently thinks, a conception of him which his supreme critic “Time” will not justify.

But why on earth should we care what a man is or was who has given us or has done for us something we can admire? For myself I have never been able to work up any interest in the identity of Shakespeare. Whether the plays were written by an inspired country bumpkin or by a most unscrupulous and learned lawyer does not bother me. We have got the plays, and we have the sonnets. That is enough. They are the work of a great genius who was above all the creature of his period. Going to a much lower plane, and speaking of a man I knew, it makes no difference whatever when we read The Soul of Man under Socialism that the brilliant Irishman who wrote it was not a respectable bourgeois in his family life. A study of his dégringolade, if ably done, might be a masterpiece of tragic psychology. I should judge such a biography as a work of art by itself, without reference to Wilde’s own writings and plays. But I am aware that this attitude of detachment in matters of art and literature is not the usual one. People in general, and especially Americans, are anxious to know every little detail about the painters or writers they admire, and I verily believe some of them take off a considerable percentage of their regard from Rembrandt and Jan Steen when they learn that one was always short of cash and the other was a roystering blade.

Now, everybody admits that Crane is as pleasing a personality as Whistler was the reverse, and yet with all his great faculties he has had to rely upon that other Court of Appeal – the foreigners – to give him his due. And they have done this: just as the French by buying Whistler’s portrait of his mother for the Luxembourg showed they knew a good thing when they saw it, and made his name by the purchase.

Though from the date of his work with Linton Walter Crane’s sympathies were all on the right side, and, as Crane says, Linton himself was a Socialist in all but name, it was not till 1884 that he finally came over into the Socialist camp. Then it was a paper by William Morris on Art and Socialism which decided him to throw in his lot with us. This has always given “The Old Guard,” as we call ourselves of 1881 and 1882, great satisfaction. For it was early in 1882 that Morris himself joined in the great fight, and certainly no more valuable recruit ever came to us thereafter than when Crane too enlisted in the Socialist army in 1884. To do this was to court prejudice and to reduce the extent of his own clientele. An artist is dependent upon the very class we were bitterly attacking for the admiration and the sale of his works. I cannot doubt that the fact that Crane is a Socialist is one of the reasons why, keenly appreciated on the continent of Europe, his genius has never been fully recognised in his own country. But that made no difference to him. Even in the United States, where he was received on his visit in a manner befitting his real position in the world of art, he did not hesitate for an instant to proclaim himself an ardent supporter of men who were suffering under ruthless class injustice. The change of attitude towards him was at once very marked. It is not a small proof of courage and conviction thus to run counter to the feelings of hospitable and well-meaning folk who could have been exceedingly useful to Crane, and who were of opinion that such matters as imprisonments and executions of men for their opinions lay outside the scope of an artist’s survey.

But – though here again the truth has been somewhat obscured even by Socialists – Walter Crane did quite as much in his way as William Morris to reawaken artistic sense in regard to home decoration, and in the small matters of daily domestic life as well as on the higher plane of public art. It is easy now to say that the founders of the Arts and Crafts Organisation and Exhibition have done their work, and that in any case the natural trend of society was all in that direction. “Natural trend” is a slipshod phrase anyhow; but there can be not the slightest doubt that the Arts and Crafts movement, helped forward as it was by the eager enthusiasm of its founders and followers, produced a marked effect upon the taste of the time in almost every department

In all this Crane was one of the most active spirits from the first and throughout. As the first chairman, he did much to set the pace and to keep it going. To encourage and develop a love of art and beauty, of high design and complete finish, for their own sake, in a community where production for profit and money-getting mechanism of the market rule the greater portion of the output even of the higher class of work, was no light task. Crane, associated with Cobden Sanderson, and other Socialist craftsmen, and aided by the great name and works of William Morris, may be said to have effected the impossible. To put their achievement on the lowest plane they did succeed in making a return to the old revolting commonplace inconceivable in many directions, if as yet the social surroundings have postponed the attainment of their ideals in their own day. This fight against unpromising conditions they all saw could never result in final victory until those conditions themselves were transformed; they acting meanwhile within the great mass of mankind as a conscious force of taste and intellect impelling their fellows in that direction.

The contrast between the art of the period of undeveloped commercialism and that under capitalist supremacy has been put thus in the early days of our English movement:

The exquisite armour of the knights, their swords and lances of perfect temper, the splendid and often humorous decorations in the stone and woodwork in the cathedrals, churches, and abbeys, the illuminations of the missals, the paintings of the time, the manner in which beautiful designs and tracery nestled even in places where it might be thought the human eye could rarely or never reach, nay, even such fragments of ordinary domestic furniture and utensils as have been preserved, all show that the art of the Middle Ages, like the art of Greece, was something loved and cherished and made perfect for its own sake, that beauty welled up unbidden from the spontaneous flow of the ideas of the time (p.10).

* * *

Instead of the pleasant, intellectual, fruitful labour of the Middle Ages we have the barren hideous drudgery of the factory and the cotton mill. While it lasts, all the ordinary surroundings of life must of necessity be ugly and brutal, and what of art is left for a time, depending, as it does, not on its own life but on the memory of past days of glory and beauty, must be produced by men of exceptional gifts, living isolated amidst the ugliness and brutality of their own time, and protesting against the spirit of their own age. Thus the capitalist system threatens to dry up the very springs of all art, that is, of the external beauty of life, and to reduce the world to a state of barbarism (p.19). [1]

I remember talking some years ago on this subject of ancient beauty and modern ugliness with Victor Adler, the Austrian Socialist leader, who has just received the congratulations of the Socialist world on the attainment of his sixtieth birthday. He told me that he and his wife, the longer they lived, were more and more driven back upon the old times, in order to lift their conceptions of art and beauty above the pretentious ugliness of today. That is really the same with us all.

Human history would acquire a new significance in the mind of the poet and artist, as they beheld, in the long course of evolution, the race in a vast procession emerging from the mists of primaeval time; from its early struggles with wild nature; from the gens and tribal state, finding safety in primitive communism, and in that state beholding the invention of the essential fundamental necessities and appliances, such as the spade, the plough, and the wheel, the spinning and weaving of cloth, pottery, and the birth of song and art.

From the tragic vicissitudes of history, of race conflict, of conquest and domination of warlike tribes and the institution of slavery, the foundation and influence of the great ancient states and empires, and their inevitable decay and fall, and the new order springing from their ruins; the tragic tale of wars and pestilence and famine, of flood and of fire and of earthquake, and yet onward still through all these perils and disasters we may see humanity marching beneath the banner of social justice to fulfil its destiny; the hero spirits still passing the torch of enlightenment and freedom from hand to hand, and as one sinks into the silence another advances towards the full flush of the new morning.

With all the resources of science and the potential glories of art in our hands, with unprecedented control over the forces of nature, and in full knowledge of the essentials of health, these being all dedicated to the service of the whole community, who would thus be in the possession of the elements and materials for a full and happy human life, surely we shall surely find new and abundant inspiration of art, and constant social use and demand for its powers.

In depicting the story of man, and the drama of life, in great public monuments, in commemoration of the past, in the education of the present; in the adorning of domestic and public buildings and places, in the accompaniments of great festivals, processions, and celebrations in such directions, surely, we shall find the widest possible field for the exercise of all the capacities of art-architecture, painting, sculpture and the arts of design and handicraft, with music and poesy, as in the fulness of communal life we shall possess the materials for building and maintaining fair cities, and dwelling-places surpassing in beauty anything that the history of the world has yet recorded, since their foundations will rest upon the welfare of the whole people!

Such is Crane’s own view of what Art in its highest sense, from architecture to domestic decoration, will then mean to the mass of mankind. And our contemporary posterity in foreign lands recognise that he himself has done a great deal towards the attainment of his own high ideal in this direction, so far as such success can be achieved in our day.

But, as already said, Crane has obtained abroad the recognition which he has not yet received in this country. In Germany a whole succession of critics of the highest distinction have devoted monographs and long articles to his work, and his place in the world of art is permanently assured, many of his pictures having been acquired for that country which are greatly esteemed. In Vienna, where much has been written on him, several of his works have been purchased for the Imperial Art Museum and many of them have been reproduced. In Hungary the enthusiasm for Crane’s art is even greater, and he is well represented in the National Gallery and National Museum at Buda-Pesth. In France Crane has been honoured from 1889 onwards, having received many evidences of admiration and respect, while in the department of black and white it is scarcely too much to say that he has had an influence similar to that which Constable had upon landscape painting. In Italy not only have a number of Crane’s drawings of Rome been purchased for the national Corsini Palace Gallery, but he has by invitation painted his own portrait for the famous historic collection at the Uffizi in Florence, where it is now hung – an honour so exceptional that his decorations as member of Italian orders and the books and articles that have been written about him in Italy are scarcely worth mention.

Art, like music, is international, and needs no translation, and it is pleasant to record such widespread international appreciation of the work of an English Socialist who has never at any time during more than a quarter of a century hesitated to avow and to speak up for his creed. The following sonnet shows something of Crane’s literary power in verse:


Art, once an outcast in a wintry land,
    Far from the sun-built house where she was born,
    Did wander desolate and laughed to scorn
By eyeless men who counted gold like sand:
Nor any soul her speech would understand ―
    A friendless stranger in the city lorn,
    Toil-grimed and blackened with the smoke upborne
Of human sacrifice of brain and hand.

Then Art, aweary, laid her down and slept
    Beneath an ancient gate, and dreaming, smiled,
        For Hope, like spring, came full of tidings good;
        And Labour, huge and free, and Brotherhood
    Led Art between them like a little child
In time new-born, to glad new life that leapt.

There is no man in the whole Socialist movement who has done more to spread and popularise the teachings of Socialism than Robert Blatchford. At times I feel very angry with him – an exacerbation against his doing the things which he ought not to have done, and leaving undone the things which he ought to have done, that is shared by nearly all the Socialists I know. But I remember well those articles of his in the Sunday Chronicle of Manchester, when Blatchford first turned Socialist.

For propaganda purposes he has never written anything more telling or forcible than those early notes. As I read them I felt at once that a new recruit of exceptional power and value had come into the party, though Blatchford had not then joined any definite Socialist organisation. Their style was pleasing, direct, and persuasive, meeting and removing the difficulties of the ordinary mind in a plain, sensible, straightforward way. Knowing by intuition that the majority of his readers would not trouble to think out the real bearing of a series of complicated arguments, Blatchford took it upon himself to do their thinking for them, and to make it all so easy that nobody could fail to understand him. He was careful not to weary the devoted band which speedily grew up around him by too prolonged a dissertation upon this or that point. He took events of the day and questions put to him in his stride, as it were, and dealt with them as if he were just a common man dealing with other common men. If there was any art in his method – and art there undoubtedly was, conscious or unconscious – it was most carefully concealed.

Nothing more attractively natural could be penned than these Chronicle articles looked. As I said at the time, Blatchford recalled the admirable, clear, personal style of William Cobbett without Cobbett’s reactionary prejudices, and devoted to a wider propaganda. There are drawbacks to this extreme lucidity of thought and easy dressing-gown-and-slippers method of inculcating truth. That, I think, is undeniable. The reader is saved the trouble of thought; but is it quite certain that new ideas thus delectably put do not slip through the persons who absorb them like the sausages through Baron Munchausen’s ducks? They are caught by the charm of the easily swallowed writing; but is not each duck in turn held by the string of personal regard for the writer, rather than by the thorough conviction of a problem thought out for himself? That in nowise detracts from the merit of Blatchford’s style or minimises the good which he has beyond all question done; but I have sometimes asked myself whether I have ever fully understood any important subject which it has not cost me a great deal of trouble to master for myself.

It took me two years to comprehend fully Marx’s economics and philosophy of history. I do not say it need take anybody nearly so long, now that his works have been elucidated and simplified from so many points of view. I am, however, of opinion that even the most serious reading being, as Schopenhauer truly says, but the following of another man’s footsteps along the highroad of thought, is little more than mechanical, unless accompanied by something not far from original thinking by the reader himself; so when writing becomes easy and attractive to the public to the extent that Blatchford’s was in those early days and in his Merrie England, a very large proportion of those who enjoyed his pleasing periods and crushing exposures got but a light hold upon the ideas which underlay them. When, too, I saw the Sunday Chronicle giving very wide publicity to these subversionary doctrines so mellifluently set forth, I asked myself how long would the increase of circulation obtained for the paper by this, in effect, revolutionary pamphleteering compensate the well-gilded owners for the damage done to their own widespread capitalist interests by the promulgation at their own expense of the truths of expropriation to come, thus insidiously taught through the columns of their paper?

The arrangement did not last long after I had begun thus to calculate upon the probable duration of this alliance between these extremes of incompatibility. Blatchford had offered him virtually the choice of abandoning his Socialism or of giving up his position, which also meant his livelihood, on the paper. He at once chose the latter course, and out of this, for him, momentous decision arose the Clarion, which, as Blatchford himself told me, he and his friend Thompson fought down to their last half-crown before, when things looked blackest, the new journal began to turn the corner. That paper has done good service to the cause. I should be the last to deny it; but it had not, of course, the opportunities of getting at outsiders which Blatchford made for himself when writing for a purely capitalist organ. Somehow, too, it never seems to have gathered round itself a solid band of fighting Socialists. That probably is more due to the ignorance and silly sentimentality of our people at large than to any fault of the Clarion itself. One thing Blatchford has achieved to an unprecedented degree. He has acquired all through the country an amount of personal popularity never before granted, so far as I know, to any man on account of articles and books alone.

He has taken the chair for me in nearly all the large cities, and the affectionate relations between himself and his devoted followers are unmistakable. Whether he speaks, which is very seldom indeed, or whether he does not speak, makes no difference. They are there to worship him, and worship him they do. It is quite evident that in some way, they and their families, having most of them got rid of the God of their childhood, partly dethroned by Blatchford’s attack, have constituted unto themselves a worshipful deity in the person of the champion of the bottom dog. We may laugh a little at the manifestation of this tendency to adore, but there is no mistake about its existence.

The “Clarionets,” who will persist in feminising themselves as “Clarionettes,” constitute an element in the Socialist Party unknown in any other country. They do their full share of propaganda work of their own kind. The Clarion Vans are an institution, likewise, so far as I am aware, peculiar to Great Britain. They have had excellent speakers on their vans, notably Hartley, Kennedy, and Bramley, who preach Socialism with a vigour and persistence, unweakened even by exhaustion and bad health. In fact Blatchford and his paper have established a social section which lives and moves and has its being in a loosely-organised series of groups throughout Great Britain, and more particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire, which are undoubtedly Socialist in all their aspirations, and contrive in the meanwhile to get a great deal of fun out of life, without finding it necessary to elaborate any Trinity as the arbiter of their destinies so long as Blatchford holds his own upon this earth.

Le style c’est l’homme.” It is not so. I have never believed it. I do not believe the written or even the spoken style tells you a bit about the man himself. And of all the men who, by their writings, have had an influence upon their day and generation, Blatchford’s style tells least of him. Any one would think, to read him, that he is active, vigorous, humorous, conversational. He is nothing of the sort. In his daily life he is the laziest white man who ever sat on the top rail of a fence. He will sit for hours smoking in silence, like a Red Indian chief puffing at his calumet. Talk, not he. He ruminates. People say his refusal to deliver an address as chairman of a meeting is “pose,” for he can speak very well if he likes. I do not think so. It is the same with him by his own fireside, even in company with that whisky and water he pretends to like. Why, having decided to abandon energy himself, he should be the cause of energy in others is an enigma I do not presume to solve.

Just another word. Why should a man who certainly takes a personal view of life and is by no means slow to deal with good and bad motives in human thought, expression, and action – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of modern materialism – why, on earth, should he of all Socialists set to work to convince himself and to persuade others that we are, all of us, no better than sentient automata, whose every motion is prescribed for us by a long series of antecedents of begetting and environment leading up to the immediate consequent over which not the most capable of us has the slightest voluntary control? It may be so. The problem of free will and predestination, of choice and determinism, of the nominal and the real, has been debated straight down from the priests and astronomers of Babylon to the scientists of Paris and Berlin. But that a writer who is vigorously engaged in the controversies of our own day, which assuredly do not lack on his own side a certain element of direct ethical imputation, should be thus concerned to relieve the most criminal or most incapable – the words in such conditions are synonymous – from any responsibility for their misdoings is surely in itself compulsory evidence of the illogicality of the human intelligence.

But Robert Blatchford has done a great deal to lead people to think who never thought before, easy as he has endeavoured to make such reflection for them. And he will do more when he gets bored with his Norfolk retreat. Meanwhile he, like a few others of us, can look on with some disgust at the immediate results of his propagandist campaign. He has helped so far to put the tricksters and charlatans in possession of the strong places of the country, and they in their gratitude turn their artillery upon him.


AIR: The March of the Cameron Men

Fill your glasses once more, fill them up to the brim,
    And drink one last toast ere we part,
A toast to the triumph – now well on its way –
    Of the cause that is nearest our heart.
Drink deep and drink true, ’tis the toast of the brave,
    And lustily swell the refrain ―
Here’s death to the system of master and slave,
    And the “ Freedom of Labour “ again.
                    And again, yet again,
            To the “Freedom of Labour” again.

Our watchword! How oft in the darkness of night
    Was it whispered mid trembling and fears,
Till the thinkers and fighters for Freedom at last
    Had rolled back the veil from the years.
And we saw why for ages had Labour endured
    And suffered the pang and the pain.
Now the darkness has gone that our vision obscured,
    Here’s the “Freedom of Labour” again.
                    And again, yet again,
            To the “Freedom of Labour” again.

Yes, knowledge spells Freedom, and slavery flies
    From the light that illumines the mind,
And Liberty’s coming with step slow but sure,
    And her cause is bestirring mankind.
And tyranny trembles, as Labour at length
    Breaks the links and the folds of its chain,
And smiles as it thinks of its fine brawny strength.
    Ah! the “Freedom of Labour” again,
                    And again, yet again,
            To the “Freedom of Labour” again.

So comrades once more fill your cups to the brim,
    Let your cheers ring applause to the toast.
How the future will covet the name and the fame
    Of the man who will honour it most.
To your feet. Here’s the cause that can never be lost
    While burns yet a thought in the brain.
Here’s the brave who died for it, ne’er counting the cost,
    And the “Freedom of Labour” again,
                    And again, once again,
            To the “Freedom of Labour” again.


* * *


O ye that are grinding your grist in the city,
    Where men in your markets are bartered and sold,
’Tis the lives of your slaves that ye crush without pity,
    Though the grist of your grinding be silver and gold.

Lo, your folk-mates their sweets in the sunshine are hiving,
    For the summer is here with his honey-sweet breath;
O what is the light whereunto ye are striving,
    When all your horizon is darker than death?

O, what and whereto are the ways ye are treading?
    What tale of your deeds shall hereafter be told?
Is it true that ye haste as a groom to the wedding,
    With nought in the bride-bed but silver and gold?

O shame! The sun shines of your eyes unbeholden,
    Ye have heard not the word that the sweet summer saith;
For the gods of your worship are silvern and golden,
    And who shall redeem ye from life that is death?

Nay, none may redeem ye; your life is your burden.
    That hath lain on your shoulders like lead from of old;
There is none that may share in its weight for a guerdon,
    Or help ye to bear it for silver and gold.

Nay, alone, all alone, ye must bear your life’s sorrow,
    The life that for others brings joy with its breath,
But for you groweth sadder from morrow to morrow,
    Till all of its sorrows are ended in death.


* * *


The Workers

O Earth, once again cometh Spring to deliver
    Thy winterworn heart, O thou friend of the Sun;
Fair blossom the meadows from river to river,
    And the birds sing their triumph o’er winter undone.

O Earth, how a-toiling thou singest thy labour,
    And upholdest the flower-crowned cup of thy bliss,
As when in the feast-tide drinks neighbour to neighbour,
    And all words are gleeful, and nought is amiss.

But we, we, O Mother, through long generations
    We have toiled and been fruitful, but never with thee
Might we raise up our bowed heads and cry to the nations
    To look on our beauty and hearken our glee.

Unlovely of aspect, heart-sick and aweary
    On the season’s fair pageant all dim-eyed we gaze;
Of thy fairness we fashion a prison-house dreary,
    And in sorrow wear over each day of our days.

The Earth

O Children! toilers, what foemen beleaguer
    The House I have built you, the Home I have won?
Full great are my gifts, and my hands are all eager
    To fill every heart with the deeds I have done.

The Workers

The foemen are born of thy body, O Mother,
    In our shape they are shapen, their voice is the same;
And the thought of their hearts is as ours, and no other;
    It is they of our own house who bring us to shame.

The Earth

Are ye few? Are they many? What words have ye spoken
    To bid your own brethren remember the Earth?
What deeds have ye done that the bonds should be broken,
    And men dwell together in goodwill and mirth?

The Workers

They are few, we are many: and yet, O our Mother,
    Many years were we wordless, and nought was our deed,
But now the word flitteth from brother to brother:
    We have furrowed the acres and scattered the seed.

The Earth

Win on then unyielding, through fair and foul weather,
    And pass not a deed that your day shall avail.
And in hope every spring-tide come gather together,
    That unto the Earth you may tell all your tale.

Then this shall I promise, that I am abiding
    The day of your triumph, the ending of gloom,
And no wealth that ye will then my hand shall be hiding,
    And the tears of the spring into roses shall bloom.



1. From A Summary of the Principles of Socialism, written for the Democratic Federation by H.M. Hyndman and William Morris, London, 1883. This pamphlet was signed by the following, then members of the Executive Committee of the body: E. Belfort Bax, Herbert Burrows, R.D. Butler, H.H. Champion (Hon. Secretary), W.J. Clark, H.A. Fuller, H.M. Hyndman (Chairman), J.L. Joynes, Tom S. Lemon, James Macdonald, William Morris (Hon. Treasurer), James F. Murray, H. Quelch, A. Scheu, Helen Taylor, John E. Williams. And that was nearly thirty years ago.

Last updated on 1.11.2007