I’ve loved this poem since I first heard it, perhaps in 1972 or so. It has been set to music, and it’s been recorded by Utah Phillips, but I’ve always felt its power more as a poem.
We have fed you all for a thousand years
And you hail us still unfed,
Though there’s never a dollar of all your wealth
But marks the workers dead.
We have yielded our best to give you rest
And you lie on crimson wool.
And if blood be the price of all your wealth,
Good God! We have paid it in full!
There is never a mine blown skyward now,
But we’re buried alive for you.
There’s never a wreck drifts shore ward now
But we are its ghastly crew.
Go reckon our dead by the forges red,
And the factories where we spin.
If blood be the price of your cursed wealth
Good God! We have paid it in.
We have fed you all for a thousand years,
For that was our doom, you know.
From the days when you chained us in your fields,
To the strike of a week ago.
You have taken our lives, and our babies and wives,
And we’re told it’s your legal share.
But if blood be the price of your lawful wealth,
Good God! We have bought it fair.
By an “unknown proletarian”, April 18, 1908.