Workman’s Jubilee Ode

Workman’s Jubilee Ode

Ave, Victoria imperatrix; morituri te salutamus!

HAIL, Empress-Queen, since thus they poets fable;
Though, sooth, a sorry realm is thine indeed;
To reign o’er groaning lands and hearts unstable,
And home made homeless by commercial greed;
Empress of strife and misery and privation,
Queen of despair and hate and envy pale—
If such domain be cause for jubilation,
On this thy jubilee we bid thee hail!

Hail, fiftieth year of sanctimonious robbery,
Imperial brigandage, and licensed crime;
Religion mealy-mouthed, and polished snobbery,
And soulless art, and priggishness sublime!
Hail, great Victorian age of cant and charity,
When all are free, yet money-bags prevail;
Huge Juggernaut of civilised barbarity,
Lo! We, thy victims, bid thee hail, all hail!

Lo! we, thy slaves, in field and town and city,
Who month by month and year by year must toil,
Wronged, robbed, exploited, ruined without pity,
While selfish Mammon heaps his stolen spoil,—
We curse thy creed of comfortable cheating;
“Live those that prosper; perish those that fail”;
Yea, ere we die, we send thee bitter greeting,
A famished people to its Empress, hail!

Empress, indeed – of dearth and desolation!
Ireland, on this thy jubilee of fame,
Stabbed, injured, maimed, yet still a deathless nation,
Brands on thy brow eternity of shame.
“Witness,” she cries, “these wrongs beyond redressing!
Witness thy gifts—the gibbet and the jail!
Shall these foul curses bring thee back a blessing?
Shall trampled Ireland bid her torturer hail?

Nay—though thine armies win thee trophies glorious,
Yet is thy glory but a worthless gaud!
Though o’er the seas thy navies ride victorious,
Yet is thine empire built on guile and fraud.
Lo! all the lands thou holdest in possession
Send thee for triumph-song the self-same tale;
Falsehood, corruption, selfishness, oppression—
These are the satellites that bid thee hail!

Hail, then, by these our tears and bitter anguish!
Hail, by our loss of all that life holds dear!
Hail, by the want wherein thy workmen languish,
That thy rich lords may boast their bounteous cheer!
Hail, by the iron rule of retribution,
’Gainst which nor wealth nor sceptre can avail!
Yea, by the kindling fire of revolution,
Great Empress-Queen, we bid thee hail, all hail!

H. S. Salt

Social Democrat, February 1897, p. 65