Labor’s Greeting

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To His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cornwall and York.Canada, 1901


Great is the rule of the bondsmen, Great is the lord of the thrall,But first in an nation of free men, our King is greater than all.This is the word of our message to the heir of the British throne,A greeting from loyal hearts and true in the Land of the Northern Zone.When the Queen of the North stands ready to welcome her future King,Make room in the ranks for Labor, let Toil her tribute bring.

We know that only the statesman, the soldier, the scribe, the priest,The high and rich and mighty may sit at the Royal feast,But we claim this right for Labor, the right to grasp your hand,To look in your eyes and speak to you as man should speak to man.The right to tell of the struggle in the Land of the Northern Zone,Where honest Labor is ground in the dust, and Greed usurps the Throne.

On the Island of Magna Charta, near ancient Runnymede,A charter was signed by a British King that made us free indeed;Crumbled to dust is the Royal hand that signed the great decree,Yet our Kings maintain unto this day that Britons shall be free;And we say to those who might make us slaves by the might of their gleaming gold,That the freedom given by God and King shall never be bought or sold.

Long have we bowed 'neath the terrible yoke of Greed, Oppression, and Wrong,And the cry of our souls went up to God, "How long, O Lord, how long?"And sometimes we wondered if God was dead, or if He had refused to hearThe prayers of the People; but God has heard and the hour is drawing nearWhen Greed and Labor shall strive no more, for Greed shall be overthrown,And the Scales of Justice shall balance at last, and Labor shall have her own.

It is barely a score of years ago in the history of our land,Since ocean was wed to ocean by the railroad's iron band,And cities sprang up like magic in the wake of the rushing train,And the master reaped the yellow gold as the husbandman the grain,Until, sated at last, he stepped aside to bask in the Royal graceBearing his harvest of golden grain--and another filled his place.

Think not that we breathe reproach or blame to that noble Mother-Queen;Ever within our loyal hearts we will keep her memory green.God's eye alone is swift to see the blood on Mammon's hand,And our Queen was only human, she did not understand.She never knew of those free-born men slaving their lives away,Striving to live as best they could on ninety cents a day.

The years went by and the deed of shame was enacted once again,Years of hopeless and grinding toil to thousands of working men:Thousands of paupers throughout the land but the world had no need to careSo long as Mammon could point with pride to one more millionaire,Until, at last, it came his turn to bask in the Royal grace,And stepped aside with his money-bags, and--another filled his place.

Once more the shameful story as told in former years;But the toilers had grown weary of hunger, sweat, and tears.So they waited on the masters and told them in manly wayThey could not live on the paltry sum of ninety cents a day.And the masters ceased a moment from counting their golden store,Pondered awhile, and then agreed to give them ten cents more.

"Little is better than nothing," 'tis a bitter truth, we have learned:For a time they bend to the yoke again, but their hearts within them burnedAs they thought of their little children, half clothed, half taught, half fed;Strong men toiling from morn till night, and their loved ones lacking bread;And they asked once more for a living wage, and another boon they craved:To be treated as British subjects and not as men enslaved.

It was little enough to ask for, but it roused the masters' wrath,And they sought to sweep the Unions forever from their path.The laws of the King and People they calmly set asideAnd flooded alien labor through the country like a tide.They filled the land with refuse, the scum of all the earth,And paid them more than they refused to men of British birth.

We swear we kept our good King's laws through all that bitter strife,When Labor grappled with her foes and struggled for her life;And Labor's strong arm conquered, and they tell us it is best,Since we have won the battle, to let the matter rest,Yet one more truth stands out plain and clear when all is done and said--The masters fought for millions, and the strikers fought for bread.

They hold the country by the throat, men tremble at their nod;The King's laws have been set aside, even as the laws of God;They have trampled on your father's laws, broken them one by one,And now they stand, with outstretched hand, to greet your father's son.Their chief will entertain you as you travel through the land,And there are none to warn you of the stain upon his hand.

Prince! We have told our story, do you wonder that we frown,To see our King do honor to the hand that holds us down?You will eat the bread and drink the wine bought with his ill-got gold,And your father's sword will dub him Knight, the same old tale retold.We read the future by the past; he will bask in the Royal grace,Living at ease, while we starve, and slave for the other in his place.

Have we no heroes, no statesmen, no genius in all the land,That only the sons of Mammon shall sit at the King's right hand?Since we have sworn to give our lives to save the King and Crown,Why should the King heap favors in the hands that hold us down?Yet the favor of kings can not prevail against Labor's righteous banWhom the King delights to honor, we will honor--if we can.

Not that we grudge him his title; for such things we do not care.Labor's true Knight can afford to smile at the toy of the millionaire.Some souls are noble, some are mean, as Nature hath decreed;If King and sword can mend her work, we wish the task God-speed.Yet an empty title bestowed by man must count as a trifling thingIn the eyes of a free-born nation, where every man is a king.

Prince! we are only the working-class, our ways and speech are plain.But the toil-marked hand we offer you is free from crimson stain.On the honest hand of Labor no Royal eye need frown;It has built up thrones and empires when Greed has pulled them down,And Labor's love and loyalty are offered with her hand,You will find no truer hearts than ours in all this goodly land.

And as for you, Dear Lady! True Princess and True Wife!May Heaven's choicest blessings go with you all thro' life!And when you reach old England's shore a boon we ask of thee,Will you tell the King, your father, that his people o'er the seaAre proud to own as Sovereign an honest, upright man,And will serve the good King Edward with willing heart and hand!

Prince, will you swear an oath with us, pledging both heart and hand,Standing erect with level glance, as man should speak to man?As you to your people are true and just, as you to your oath are true:True to our heritage and your trust, so we will be true to you.But another oath we have sworn to keep in the Land of the Northern Zone--Mammon shall rule no more in the land, and Labor shall have her own.

Written in behalf of the Wage-Earners, by MARIE JOUSSAYE

© Joussaye Marie