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A Strike Among the Poets -- Anonymous

       
(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.'
-- Anonymous
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).

60 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Martin DeMello said...

--- Abraham Thomas wrote:
> Stanza #4: I have no idea where this comes from. Any pointers, gentle
> readers?

The Minstrel Boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;

--Thomas Moore
[broken link] http://www.28thmass.com/Songs/minstrel_boy.htm

More famous as a song than as a poem.

m.

Frank O'Shea said...

Lovely.
The fourth verse comes from The Minstrel Boy

The Minstrel Boy to the war has gone
In the ranks of death you will find him
His father's sword he has girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him.

I don't have time to check it out, but I have a funny feeling that
Anonymous might be Henry Lawson??

Frank

Balaji Srinivasan said...

--- Abraham Thomas wrote:
> "A Strike Among the Poets"
> Stanza #4: I have no idea where this comes from. Any pointers, gentle
> readers?

Probably this Thomas Moore's poem:
[broken link] http://www.acronet.net/~robokopp/eire/theminst.htm
-Balaji.

Jenny Kirkby said...

Stanza 4 - probably from a traditional Welsh song
"The minstrel boy to the wars is gone,
and his wild harp slung behind him"

Keep up the good work - I can cope without shorter hours and better pay
as long as the poetry keeps coming!

Jenny

Iain Muir said...

The Minstrel Boy to the Wars has gone
In the Ranks of Death you will find him.
His father's Sword he has girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" said the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

Thomas Moore (1779-1852).

Leslie Pack Kaelbling said...

> Stanza #4: I have no idea where this comes from. Any pointers, gentle
> readers?

The Minstral Boy is a folk song, which figures prominently in "The Man
Who Would be King".

[broken link] http://www.contemplator.com/folk/minstrel.html

- Leslie

Jerry Rao said...

I think "shorter Hours and better pay" and refernce to blacklegs may be
from Auden...possibly James Honeyman

Jerry

Netscape SuiteSpot User said...

In light of the recently celebrated Labor Day holiday, today's poem is quite timely - and personally amusing as well: here at AVeryLargeCorporation we've been working without a contract since August 2. If only it were as simple as shorter hours, better pay!

Rara Avis

MC Pike said...

A lovely, sad, song The Minstrel Boy to the War has Gone, rather relevant to this warlike world. No-one has quoted the ending, tho'
"This harp will sing for the brave & free,"
"It will never sound in slavery!"
Also, 'round here instead of blackleg, they're called "SCAB!" - much better to yell out as you join arms with your fellow picketers ;)

Chellappa Mallika (Mallika) said...

Stanza #4

The Minstrel boy to the war has gone
In the ranks of death you'll find him
His Father's sword he has girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him

Old Irish air.

Minstrels should have known this for sure!!

Mallika

Chellappa Mallika (Mallika) said...

The whole song (according to me)
The minstrel boy to the war has gone.
In the ranks of death you'll find him.
His father's sword he has girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him.
"Land of song," said the warrior bard,
"Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword at least thy rights shall guard,
One faithful heart shall praise thee."

The minstrel fell, but the foeman's chain
Could not bring his proud soul under.
The harp he loved never spoke again,
For he tore its cords asunder,
And said, "No sound shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and bravery.
Thy songs were made for the pure and free.
They shall never sound in slavery."
--
Mallika

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Anonymous said...

Apropos stanza #7 - I was always rather fond of this as a kid. However I came across another version recently:

Lives of all great men remind us,
When hist'ry's pages o'er we've turned,
That we must not leave behind us
Letters, which we should have burned!

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