Ode to Labour.

(From Tait’s Magazine.)

Hail labour ! source, thro’ bounteous Nature’s aid,1
Of ev’ry blessing which sustains mankind !—2
Yes, Nature’s frowns thy power hath so allay’d3
That man thro’ life need scarce an evil find4
From sultry sun, or piercing wintry wind.5
With wonder may we view what thou’st achiev’d,6
So fetter’d as thou hitherto has been ;7
But from thy trammels soon thou’lt be reliev’d,8
And waft thy sons to happiness serene,9
Which ’twere vain thought to contemplate unseen.10
Amaz’d, we see thee, with a dauntless mind,11
Into the bowels of the earth descend ;12
And Nature’s boundless treasures, there confined,13
From their long resting place thou dost unbend14
Upraise to light—to human use’s send.15
Enraptur’d view yon beauteous fertile plain,16
Late unproductive, desolate, and bare,17
Where Nature vainly gave soil, sun, and rain,18
Till thou didst ply thy vig’rous arm with care,19
Nor grain, nor herbage, flower nor fruit grew there.20
Delighted, yonder splendid mart behold,21
Or rich bazaar, where costly treasures shine ;22
The glare of light therein which doth unfold23
The varied wealth, too num’rous to define ;24
They, each and all, have sprung from hands of thine !25
On yon stupendous pile astonish’d gaze,26
Which seems to hurl defiance to Old Time ;27
Each minute part thou’st form’d, the mass did’st raise,28
As ’twere from chaos to a work sublime29
To shield each inmate from the changeful clime.30
On yonder stately barque look with surprise,31
Which dauntless ranges o’er the ocean wide ;32
By thee ’twas form’d—’tis stor’d where’er she lies,33
Her sails thou’lt trim, or pow’rful engines guide :34
To commerce spreads thy wealth on ev’ry side !35
The electric shaft propell’d by yon dark cloud,36
From human habitation thou’lt convey ;37
Tho’ lightning glares and thunder speaks aloud,38
We can the elemental strife survey39
Unharm’d if thou thy pow’rful aid display.40
Yon gaudy, glitt’ring coach thy hands did rear,41
And all the trappings which belong thereto42
The horses did supply, or steam prepare43
Produced each power, by which it onward flew :44
Thy aid withdrawn, a useless thing thou’dst view !45
Yon parchment deeds compactly seal’d and sign’d,46
Thro’ which vain idlers have usurped the soil,47
Fleec’d thee and thine, by fraud and force combin’d,48
And, by mere suff’rance thereon, let thee toil :49
Yea skins, seals, wax thou’st form’d but to despoil.50
Yon implements of horrid war thou’st made,51
With which thy sacred rights are from thee wrest ;52
Ay, worse than all, thy dearest sons array’d,53
Have held the deadly weapons to thy breast,54
By tyrants forc’d, and destitution press’d.55
Thy ingrate offspring— “ Capital ” by name56
Who should thy strength replenish and sustain,57
Doth madly join all those who’d thee defame58
Thy sturdy limbs in fetters vile who’d chain,59
Or fain thy life’s-blood suck from ev’ry vein.60
Too long, thou all productive power, thou’st worn61
Contumely’s garb. Yea, destitute, uncheer’d,62
Too long the bitter taunt thou’st tamely borne,63
Of those who’ve wanton’d in the wealth thou’st rear’d64
Hail, happy change—thy arm’s now rais’d and fear’d.65
But tho’ thy arm’s in giant strength erect,66
As infants’, harmless, thou its pow’r will wield ;67
Thy sacred rights thou’lt grasp—each wrong correct,68
Then act with mercy—not to vengeance yield :—69
Wisdom and worth thou’lt succour—weakness shield.70