Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

In commemoration of Labor Day, I share with you two poems (well, actually the second is a song), both of which have work as a central theme. The first was a meditation during our church service on Sunday and the second was one of the hymns.

The Golf Links (this is a quatrain in the poem called "Through the Needle's Eye")
The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day

The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

~ Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn, 1876-1959
Sarah wrote this poem in 1915. In 1943, she moved to Philadelphia where she died on April 4, 1959.

This is a poem (and song by Judy Collins) about the Lawrence, Massachusetts women textile workers strike of 1912.

Bread and Roses
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, "Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses."


As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men --
For they are women's children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes --
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew --
Yes, it is bread we fight for -- but we fight for Roses, too.


As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days --
The rising of the women means the rising of the race --
No more the drudge and idler, -- ten that toil where one reposes --
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!


John Oppenheim

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