Poem: ‘The Palace-Builders’

    We cut sandstone pyramids out of desert strata,

    They said it would preserve them for our God;

    And piled on pile for the Tower of Babylon,

    For they promised us good in a score of tongues;

    We gave them tribute at the gates of the Labyrinth,

    To pacify the Bull which was shaking the earth;

    Upon the Rock of Athens, we built to perfection,

    Were not all now equal under rule of the many?

    We vaulted a dome for the Pantheon, needing no centre,

    Had not Caesar promised to restore the Republic?

    At Santa Sophia we gave the heavens a new roof,

    Blessed by one Pope, cursed by another, and used in the name of Allah.

    We watered their moats, raised up castle keeps,

    Ploughed the land which owned us, safe in its fief;

    Pointed their arches, filled them with painted glass,

    Reaching for heaven with our tallest spire.

    We gave them our tools, beggared our serfdom,

    They put a price on our hands and some were unsold;

    Then cut off our ears and in our foreheads branded

    The mark of a slave and none paid us wages;

    The fields were trenched and with fences enclosed,

    Our cottage homes sank under palace improvements,

    Our infants were gathered — the care of the Poor was Law —

    Cotton, wool and linen their small hands wove them all.

    We build no more now that art needs no muscle,

    The hammer wears out its shaft, the stone eats the chisel;

    Because we held the levers we thought we were in control,

    Pharaoh, King Caesar, Pope, Baron, Merchant — Capital!

    Their machines have sucked upon our labour,

    Our skills and their products quarter the globe;

    But coming is the time when the world will favour

    We! — And masons will carve their own abode.


B. K. McNeeney

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