Friday, October 30, 2015

The First May Day 1890 poem

The First May Day
Punch 3rd May 1890
A universal movement in favour of shorter hours would seem
best fitted to secure the amelioration of the labourer's lot.
The Times. 
Enthusiastic Operative to his Bench-Mate, loquitur:—
We must wake and turn out early, bright and early, 
comrade dear;
To-morrow'll be the biggest day of all the sad New Year;
Of all the sad New Year, mate, the biggest, brightest day;
For to-morrow's the First of May, chummy, to-morrow's our
First of May.

There'll be many a dark, dark eye, chummy, by Thames,
and Seine, and Rhine,
There'll be Salisbury, Alisbury and Carnot and Caprivi to peak
and pine.
For there'll be a stir of the Labourer in every land,
they say,
And Toil's to be Queen o' this May, chummy, 
Toil's to be Queen o'this May.

I do sleep sound at night, chummy, but to-morrow morn
I'll wake;
The Cry of the Crowd will sound aloud in my ear ere dawn
shall break.
'Twill muster with its booming bands and with its banners gay;
For to-morrow's the Feast of May, brother, to-morrow's our
Feast of May.

They've kept us scattered till now, comrade; but that
no more may be:
Our shout goes up in unison by Thames, Seine, Rhine and Spree.
We are not the crushed-down crowd, chummy, we were but yesterday.
We're full of the Promise o' May, brother, mad with the
Promise of May!

They thought us wandering ghosts, brother. Divided strength
is slight;
But what will they say when our myriads assemble in
banded might?
They call us craven-hearted, but what matter what they say?
They'll know on the First o' May, brother; they'll learn 
on the First o' May.

They say ours is a dying cause, but that can never be:
There's many a heart as bold as TELL'S in the New Democracy.
There's many a million of stalwart lads who toil for poorish pay;
And they'll meet on the First o' May, brother, they'll speak on the
First o' May.

The tramp of a myriad feet shall sound where the young 
spring grass is green,
Yon Emperor young shall hear, brother, and so shall our
gracious Queen,
For Labour's hosts to all civic centres shall gather from far away;
The Champs de Mars shall greet Hyde Park on this glorious
First o' May.

The lime is budding forth, brother, lilac our cot embowers,
And the meadows soon shall be a-scent with the snowy 
hawthorn flowers;
But a bonnier sight shall be the tramping crowds in fustian grey,
Flushed with the Promise o' May, brother, the new-born 
promise o' May.

A wind is with their march, brother, that threatens old claims
of Class,
And the grey Spring skies above them seem to brighten as they pass.
Pray heaven there'll be no drop o' rain the whole of the
live-long day,
To sadden our First o' May, brother, to sadden our First o' May!

The labourers of Paris, and the toilers of Berlin,
Will throng to shout for shorter hours, homes happier, 
and more "tin."
Why even the chilly Times, chummy, is almost constrained to say
There is sense in our First o' May, chummy, hope from our 
First o' May.

The Governments are a-gog, brother, Figaro owns as much;
Property quakes when the countless hands of Labour are in touch.
And from Bermondsey to Budapest they are in touch to-day,
Linked for the Feast of May, brother, linked for the
Feast of May!

So we must wake and turn out early, bright and early, comrade,
To-morrow'll be the grandest day of all the green New Year;
To-morrow'll be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For Toil's to be Queen o' the May, brother. Labour is
Queen 'o this May!