Social Protest Lit.: Paint Creek Miner “‘Gunmen’ in West Virginia”

index“‘Gunmen in West Virginia” by an anonymous Paint Creek Miner written during the terrible strike of 1911-1912. This is one of my favorites in the “Social Protest Lit.” series. This piece is an excerpt is from Book V called “Revolt.” This chapter pertains to “The struggle to abolish injustice; the battle cries of the new army which is gathering for the deliverance of humanity.”

The hills are very bare and cold and lonely;

I wonder what the future months will bring.

The strike is on-our strength would win, if only–

O, Buddy, how I’m longing for the spring!

They’ve got us down-their martial line enfolds us;

They’ve thrown us out to feel the winter’s sting.

And yet, by God, those curs can never hold us,

Nor could the dogs of hell do such a thing!

It isn’t just to see the hills beside me

Grow fresh and green with every growing thing’

I only want the leaves to come and hide me,

To cover up my vengeful wandering.

I will not watch the floating clouds that hover

Above the birds that warble on the wing;

I want to use this GUN from under cover–

O, Buddy, how I’m longing for the spring!

You see them there, below, the damned scab-herders!

Those puppets on the greedy Owners’ String;

We’ll make them pay for all their dirty murders–

We’ll show them how a starveling’s hate can sting!

They riddled us with volley after volley;

We heard their speeding bullets zip and ring,

But soon we’ll make them suffer for their folly–

O, Buddy, how I’m longing for the spring!

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Social Protest Lit: Lady Wilde’s “Despair”

indexA poem by Lady Wilde entitled “Despair” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

Before us dies our brother, of starvation;

Around are cries of famine and despair!

Where is hope for us, or comfort or salvation–

Where–oh! where?

If the angels ever hearken, downward bending,

They are weeping, we are sure,

At the litanies of human groans ascending,

From the crushed hearts of the poor.

 

We never knew a childhood’s mirth and gladness,

Nor the proud heart of youth free and brave;

Oh, a death-like dream of wretchedness and sadness

Is life’s weary journey to the grave!

Day by day we lower sink, and lower,

Till the God-like soul within

Falls crushed beneath the fearful demon power

Of poverty and sin.

 

So we toil on, on with fever burning

In heart and brain;

So we toil on, on through bitter scorning,

Want, woe, and pain.

We dare not raise our eyes to the blue heavens

Or the toil must cease–

We dare not breathe the fresh air God has given

One hour in peace.

 

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Social Protest Lit: Ebenezer Elliot, “The People’s Anthem”

indexA poem from Ebenezer Elliot entitled The People’s Anthem from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

When wilt thou save the people?

O God of mercy! when?

Not kings and lords, but nations!

Flowers of the heart, O God, are they!

Let them not pass, like weeds, away!

Their heritage a sunless day!

God save the people!

Shall bring crime for ever,

Strength aiding still the strong?

Is it thy will, O Father?

That man shall toil for wrong?

“No!” say thy mountains; “No!” thy skies;

“Man’s clouded sun shall brightly rise,

And songs be heard instead of sighs.”

God save the people!

When wilt thou save the people?

O God of mercy! when?

The people, Lord! the people!

Not thrones and crowns, but men!

God save the people! thine they are;

Thy children, as thy angels fair;

Save them from bondage and despair!

God save the people!

 

 

 

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