May Beals

The Miner's Tale

Published: The Cry For Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest, ed. by Upton Sinclair, John C. Winston Co., 1915.
Transcribed: for in January, 2002.

(A tragedy at Coal Creek, Tennessee, May 19, 1902)

THE lord of us he lay in his bed--
Good right had he, good right!
But we were up before night had fled,
Out to the mine in the dawning red;
Slaves were we all, by hunger led
Into the land of night.

The master knew of our danger well,
We also knew--we knew.
His greed for profits had served him well,
But he over-reached him, as fate befell,
And I alone am left to tell,
Death's horrors I lived through

The master dreamed, mayhap, of his gold,
But we were awake--awake,
Buried alive in the black earth's mold;
And some who yet could a pencil hold,
Wrote till their hands in death grew cold,
For wife or sweetheart's sake.

Letters they wrote of farewell--farewell,
To mother, sweetheart, wife:
What words of comfort could they tell--
Comfort for those who loved them well,
Up from the jaws of the earth's black hell
That was crushing out their life.

The master cursed, as masters do--
Good right had he, good right!
But the fear of our vengeance stirred him, too;
He sailed, with some of his pirate crew,
To Europe, and reveled a year or two,
Great might has he--great might!