The Disinherited

They cluster at every corner;
They wearily pace the land;
Their starving eyes devour each loaf;
They stretch the begging hand.

They are hungry and sick and tired;
Their bleeding footsteps lag;
My brothers! – and none to help them!
Their nakedness mocked with a rag!

They bake, and others have eaten;
They burn, but others are warm;
They build, but their heads, unsheltered,
Are bare to the pitiless storm.

They till, but the crop goes from them;
They reap, but “The Harvest Home”
Means to them that their product is stolen;
They brew, and taste but the foam.

Ah God! – how sadly they call Thee;
If Thou wert, Thou couldst not withstand;
But always the wicked have triumphed;
The cunning and strong rule the land.

The hearts of the mothers are breaking;
The daughters are bedded with shame;
The fathers are brutish with labor;
The thoughts of the sons are a flame.

And Hatred and Arson and Murder,
Like demons they beckon and tempt,
The hand to the sword is outreaching –
Blood! Blood! – O can nothing exempt!

O Wisdom be instant and help us! –
Quick rearing thy radiant crest –
O brothers, the sword is a traitor!
The calm, thoughtful methods are best.

The way of the wise is the best,
Which thinkers have pondered and planned;
The Gordian tangles are slipping –
Behold! – your release is at hand.

From: Wind-harp songs (1895).