Caroline H. Pemberton

Song of Labor

Published: International Socialist Review, Vol III, No. 7, 1903.
Transcribed: Sally Ryan for in 2000.


Go–bind pour wounded hearts, O ye
Who stand and weep for liberty!
The freedom that you weeping mourn
For us has never yet been born;
For us no poet sings the morn
To cheer us with his ecstasy!

This is the land of patriots who
Have ever cherished for the few
The vision that the many knew
For them was but a mockery!

The sigh of Labor you have heard
Is but an echo of the word
That sweeps along like frightened bird
Before the winds of destiny!

Around the world that sigh extends!
It has no meaning till it lends
Its broken note to higher ends
Than plaintive songs of poverty!

A thousand Christs upon the hills
Of Calvary to bear our ills–
By power of their celestial wills
And all their sweet divinity–

Could not in suffering take our place,
Or by their sacred tears displace
That we have given to the race–
We are the sons of Calvary!

Go–bind your wounded hearts, O ye
Who take a word for liberty!
'Tis but a name! When was it known
To make atonement if a stone
Was offered us for daily bread?

In Orient lands, another name
Ye give to those who build their fame
On highway robbery! The same
Oppressing hands have always bled

The poor at home of all they made!
Now cross the seas they boldly raid
Those lovely isles that long have paid
The robbers price with gallant dead.


Across the blackened ages past
We see ourselves in truth at last;
We stand and look–and are aghast–
And wonder at the mystery!

For kings we swung the battle-axe:
We paid in blood a heavier tax
Than all the knights upon our backs
With all their pomp and chivalry!

For them we fixed our arrows true:
For them we aimed–the bow we drew–
For reasoned why–nor asked or knew–
Our brothers in the sunlight slew–
And with their blood wrote history.

The death of yeomen as a game
Our masters thought too dear when came
The manufacturer's day and fame–
Then marched we to the factory!

We took the thread and wove the cloth;
We built machines and pledged our troth
To make the goods for South or North–
We ate but little–and our broth
Was payment for our industry.

We mined the coal–we wrought the steel–
We taught the elements to kneel
Before the swift revolving wheel–
A meager, living wage we drew!

We strapped the continent with rails
And bound together hills and dales;
We held them fast with iron nails–
We builded better than we knew!

We spanned the river with a bridge
And tunneled through the mountain ridge–
We built the old–we built the new–
We built all things so strong and true!
We built them not for us but you!


Yet all we built we only lent!
We never surely could have meant
Those treasures from the firmament–
Like Juggernauts with cruel intent–
To crush us in our discontent
And swell the gains of cornered stocks!

Far better to have left the rocks
Where Nature placed them–in her box
Than ever to have picked her locks
And from her quarries torn the blocks
As monuments to human greed!

We builded for the human race!
As Master Builders by the grace
Of God we hold the title-deed
That everyone who ruins may read!

Behold the spirit of Labor! We
Have all things made: our destiny
Outrunning ancient prophecy
Shall build man's goodness to the skies!
Behold the spirit of Labor rise!
Behold the face of Liberty!

Slow rising from the valley's depth is seen
A cloudy mist of strange gigantic form:
Upon its crest a white and silvery sheen
As the sunlight and the shadowy storm
Had met! So piercing are those glorious beams
Of light–all conquered is the sullen gloom!
And dazzled are the Patriot's eyes! It seems
As if before him now distinctly loom
The outlines of a shape that line by line
Majestically human grows! Benign
It stands revealed in sunlight–then divine–
With face celestial looking out from space!
Then falls the Patriot awed upon his face
And cries with all his soul in ecstasy:–
"It is the face of Liberty I see!
The face of Labor beautiful and free!
The face of Labor glorified as Art!
O Spirit of Labor! Look forgivingly
on me–I know thee now–thou art
'The Christ that is to be!"