(Poem #1340) A Strike Among the Poets
In his chamber, weak and dying, While the Norman Baron lay, Loud, without, his men were crying, 'Shorter hours and better pay.' Know you why the ploughman, fretting, Homeward plods his weary way Ere his time? He's after getting Shorter hours and better pay. See! the Hesperus is swinging Idle in the wintry bay, And the skipper's daughter's singing, 'Shorter hours and better pay.' Where's the minstrel boy? I've found him Joining in the labour fray With his placards slung about him, 'Shorter hours and better pay.' Oh, young Lochinvar is coming; Though his hair is getting grey, Yet I'm glad to hear him humming, 'Shorter hours and better pay.' E'en the boy upon the burning Deck has got a word to say, Something rather cross concerning Shorter hours and better pay. Lives of great men all remind us We can make as much as they, Work no more, until they find us Shorter hours and better pay. Hail to thee, blithe spirit! (Shelley) Wilt thou be a blackleg? Nay. Soaring, sing above the mêlée, 'Shorter hours and better pay.'
Ah, shorter hours and better pay. What we all wish for. thomas. [Notes] To make up for the lack of insightful commentary (really, what would you expect, except for the obvious statement that I love the conceit :)), here's a list of sources: Stanza #1: "The Norman Baron" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow http://www.emule.com/poetry/?page=poem&poem=4763 In his chamber, weak and dying, Was the Norman baron lying; Loud, without, the tempest thundered And the castle-turret shook, Stanza #2: "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" -- Thomas Gray http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1091.html The curfew tolls the knell of parting day; The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea; The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. Stanza #3: "The Wreck of the Hesperus" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/717.html It was the schooner Hesperus, That sailed the wintry sea; And the skipper had taken his little daughter, To bear him company. Stanza #4: I have no idea where this comes from. Any pointers, gentle readers? Stanza #5: "Lochinvar" -- Sir Walter Scott http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/125.html O, young Lochinvar is come out of the west, Through all the wide Border his steed was the best; Stanza #6: "Casabianca" -- Felicia Hemans http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1000.html The boy stod on the burning deck, Whence all but him had fled; The flame that lit the battle's wreck Shone round him o'er the dead. Stanza #7: "A Psalm of Life" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/888.html Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time; Stanza #8: "To a Skylark" -- Percy Byshhe Shelley http://www.bartleby.com/106/241.html Hail to thee, blithe spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from heaven, or near it, Pourest thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. And finally, 'blackleg' : "A name of opprobrium for a workman willing to work for a master whose men are on strike" (OED).