The Keening [poem by Marie E. J. Pitt]

[Editor: This poem by Marie E. J. Pitt was published in The Horses of the Hills and Other Verses (1911).]

The Keening.

We are the women and children
Of the men that mined for gold:
Heavy are we with sorrow,
Heavy as heart can hold;
Galled are we with injustice,
Sick to the soul of loss —
Husbands and sons and brothers
Slain for the yellow dross!

We are the women and children
Of the men that died like sheep,
“Stoping” the stubborn matrix,
Piling the mullock heap,
Stifling in torrid “rises,”
Stumbling with stupid tread
Along the Vale of the Shadow
To the thud of the stamper-head!

We are the women and children
Of the miners that delved below
Main-shaft and winze and crosscut —
Opening the silly “show.”
Look at us! Yea, in our faces!
God! Are ye not ashamed
In the sight of your godless fellows
Of the men ye have killed and maimed?

They moiled like gnomes in the “faces,”
They choked in the “’fracteur” fumes,
And your dividends paved the pathways
That led to their early tombs.
With Death in the sleepless night-shifts
They diced for the prize ye drew;
And the Devil loaded the pieces —
But the stakes were held by you!

Ye were the lords of Labor;
They were the slaves of Need.
Homes had they for the keeping,
Children to clothe and feed!
Ye paid them currency wages —
Shall it stand to your souls for shrift
That ye bought them in open market
For “seven-and-six a shift?”

Wise in your generation,
Cunning are ye in your day!
But ’ware of the stealthy vengeance
That never your wealth shall stay!
They won it — yea, with their life-blood;
Ye laughed at the sacrifice;
But by every drop of your spilling
We shall hold you to pay the price!

Ye have sown the wind, to your sorrow;
Ye have sown by the coward’s code,
Where the glimmering candles gutter,
And the rock-drill bites on the lode!
Ye have sown to the jangle of stampers,
To the brawl of the Stock Exchange,
And your children shall reap the whirlwind
On the terms that the gods arrange.

And ye, who counsel the nation,
Statesmen who rule the State!
Foolish are ye in your weakness,
Wise are we in our hate!
Traitors and false that pander
To the spillers of human life,
Slaying with swords of silence
Who dared not slay with the knife!

And ye of the House of Pilate,
Ye who gibber of Christ
At the foot of the golden crosses
Where the sons of men are triced!
Ye who whimper of patience,
Who slay with a loose-lipped lie
At the word of the fat blasphemers
Whose poppet-heads mock the sky!

We are the women and children
Of the men that ye mowed like wheat;
Some of us slave for a pittance —
Some of us walk the street;
Bodies and souls, ye have scourged us;
Ye have winnowed us flesh from bone:
But, by the God ye have flouted,
We will come again for our own!

Marie E. J. Pitt, The Horses of the Hills and Other Verses, Melbourne: Specialty Press, 1911, pages 110-113

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