The Sweater’s Dream [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]

The Sweater’s Dream

The Sweater slept, and — in the hours when all the world lies calm and still —
He dreamed high Heaven’s vasty powers were trained to do his sweaty will.
He saw a famished, seething horde beat at his sweat-shop’s bolted gates —
The walls were beetling cliffs that shored a stormy sea of griefs and hates ;
The daughter cursed the mother there the father fought the starving son —
Their eyes flashed forth the savage glare of beasts whose food has long been done.
The Sweater smiled and laughed aloud — his fingers grasped the counterpane
As tho’ it were pale Abel’s shroud gripped by a glad, exultant Cain !

“At last,” he laughed ; “at last I see the cringing helots brought to heel ;
Tamed by the lash of misery, they prate no more of commonweal.
I am their Master, and their lives are mine to shatter as I will ;
Sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, wives — all mine to grind in Hunger’s mill,
I hold the Reins of Government — Aha, I’ll hold them evermore —
Behold my hapless paupers pent like brutes within the abattoir.
How just is God. He gives to me dominion o’er the human kine,
And dooms their pale posterity to work for Me and Mine.”

The Sweater’s laugh rang out again, for lo, within his happy dream
He saw an oozing yellow stain — he saw the hosts of Asia teem.
They pressed behind the pauper tide in ochre-tinted, swollen seas —
“Now praise the Lord,” the Sweater cried, “For heavenly boons so great as these.
His gifts are good, tho’ sinners scoff — His ways are ever kind to Me ;
In these fresh forms behold the profits of my Christian piety.
The Lord repays with his complex, safe system of Divine Finance —
Right handsomely He draws His cheques upon the Bank of Circumstance.”

Across the Sweater’s dreaming brain Greed’s plunderous pageant swiftly ran ;
He saw himself in proud disdain perched on a pyramid of Man.
Around its base the paupers heaved, and strove to raise the ghastly pile
Whose bulk with human bones was weaved, and mortared well with priestly guile.
Toil on ye slaves,” the Sweater cried, “and lift the white skull courses high,
That I at last may sit in pride — enthroned with God above the sky.
Ye are your own materials — lay ye your hapless bones right well,
That God, within His heavenly halls, may never guess I rise from Hell

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 208-210

Editor’s notes:
Sweater = an employer who overworks and underpays his employees (from the allegation against an employer who works his employees so hard that they sweat profusely)

yellow stain = Asian populations, “the yellow peril”; “Banjo” Paterson, in his 1923 poem “A Job for McGuinness”, uses a similar phraseology, “But perhaps — later on — when the Chow and the Jap, Begin to drift down from the tropics, When a big yellow stain spreading over the map, Provides some disquieting topics”

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