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William Morris (1834-1896)

The Voice of Toil


              1I heard men saying, Leave hope and praying,
              2All days shall be as all have been;
              3To-day and to-morrow bring fear and sorrow,
              4The never-ending toil between.

              5When Earth was younger mid toil and hunger,
              6In hope we strove, and our hands were strong;
              7Then great men led us, with words they fed us,
              8And bade us right the earthly wrong.

              9Go read in story their deeds and glory,
            10Their names amidst the nameless dead;
            11Turn then from lying to us slow-dying
            12In that good world to which they led;

            13Where fast and faster our iron master,
            14The thing we made, for ever drives,
            15Bids us grind treasure and fashion pleasure
            16For other hopes and other lives.

            17Where home is a hovel and dull we grovel,
            18Forgetting that the world is fair;
            19Where no babe we cherish, lest its very soul perish;
            20Where mirth is crime, and love a snare.

            21Who now shall lead us, what God shall heed us
            22As we lie in the hell our hands have won?
            23For us are no rulers but fools and befoolers,
            24The great are fallen, the wise men gone.

            25I heard men saying, Leave tears and praying,
            26The sharp knife heedeth not the sheep;
            27Are we not stronger than the rich and the wronger,
            28When day breaks over dreams and sleep?

            29Come, shoulder to shoulder ere the world grows older!
            30Help lies in nought but thee and me;
            31Hope is before us, the long years that bore us
            32Bore leaders more than men may be.

            33Let dead hearts tarry and trade and marry,
            34And trembling nurse their dreams of mirth,
            35While we the living our lives are giving
            36To bring the bright new world to birth.

            37Come, shoulder to shoulder ere Earth grows older!
            38The Cause spreads over land and sea;
            39Now the world shaketh, and fear awaketh,
            40And joy at last for thee and me.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Justice (April 5, 1884); then William Morris, Poems by the Way (London: Reeves and Turner, 1891). end M677 P64 1891 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1884
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 3.364.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/10

Rhyme: abcb


Other poems by William Morris