On dreary wooden benches, in low- ceiled tavern squalid, 
Where day but palely falters, through smoke- bemurked glass, 
Beside long cheerless tables, with sullen looks and pallid, 
A group of outcast wanderers forlornly there hath tarried; 
The poor and sceptic children of proletarian class. 

Dost say man shines effulgent, quoth one with cynic sneer, 
In this dark world of hardship, of bitterness and pain? 
No spark in him appeareth of candid light and clear; 
His ray is dull and clouded, like this be- mudded sphere, 
Whereon he ruleth sovereign, unchallenged in his reign. 

What's justice? See the mighty, behind their fortune's shielding, 
Erect their laws and edicts, to serve them as afoil, 
Against ye ever plotting, with wealth stolen from  your yielding, 
Whom they to labour sentence, by boundless powers they're wielding 
And hold in subjugtion your lives of ceaseless toil. 

With sated langour gorge they the sweets their lives o'ercumber, 
Bright hours upon them smiling, their day in dalliance flies; 
In winter, 'mind green gardens, they quaff the wine's rich amber, 
In heat of summer sweltering' mid Alpine peaks they clamber, 
And night to morn transforming, they close day's sleepy eyes. 

For them what folk call virtue exists not; yet vicarious, 
To ye, they falsely preach it; your doughty brawn and sweat 
Their lumbering States are needing, for their expansion glorious; 
Their fiery wars need fighting, that they may rise victorious; 
That by your bloody slaughter your rulers may be great. 

Their navies flaunting proudly, and armies high- belauded, 
The crowns, by reigning monarchs, on haughty foreheads borne, 
Those millions piled on millions, in lavish heaps, safe- hoarded, 
Rich vampires are amassing, depress the poor, defrauded, 
And from o' er- burdened toiling of weary mobs are drawn. 

Religion- 'tis but phrasing, created for your deceiving, 
That by its lure enthralling, your yoked necks ye' ll bow; 
For held the heart no vision of recompense relieving, 
After your bitter labours and life of constant grieving, 
Would ye the curse still carry, like oxen at the plough? 

With shadows vague and formless your sight they have extinguished; 
By faith in last requital, mendaciously have led; 
Ah, no; when life lies dying, all joy must be relinquished; 
To whom this world naught gifted, save sorrow, sore and anguished 
Gains no redress post- mortal; for they who die are dead. 

Vain lies, empty phrases alone the States sustaining; 
Pretence that destined order they cunningly portray; 
To make ye strong defenders, their wealth and power maintaining, 
In armed ranks conscribing, by discipine constraining; 
To fight your very brothers, they drive ye to the fray. 

Unto malignant millions why are ye subjugated; 
Ye that a mere subsistence scarce wring from ceaseless toil? 
To early death and wastage why are ye dedicated, 
Whilst they in easeful comfort have aye luxuriated; 
Scarce time amid their feasting to cast the mortal coil? 

Bethink thee; power and numbers are yours for liberation! 
It needs but that ye will it, to part the soil by might. 
Build no more walls and ramparts to serve wealth' s preservation; 
Or make for ye a prison, when, by desperation, 
Ye fancy to life' s bounty, ye also have the right. 

By their own laws encompassed, they take their fill of treasure, 
An drain earth' s sweetest juices, till sweets, from surfeit, cloy, 
Calling in gay carousals and revel- sated leisure, 
For your fair daughters virgin, as tools to serve their pleasure; 
Their foul lascivious ancients our lovely youth destroy. 

Know ye what bitter portion to ye is harshly fated? 
Hard toil, wherefrom their riches they draw unto excess, 
Black bread your tears have moistened, a life of serfdom hated, 
Your maidens smirched and shameful, their happiness frustrated; 
The heaven unto the mighty; to ye, the bitter mess! 

Rich men require no statutes, for virtue grows concurrent 
When every want is furnished; for ye the lawyer' s screed; 
For ye the regulations, and punishments deterrent, 
When forth your hands are reaching, for like' s good gifts aspirant; 
Exists there no forgiveness, e' en for your direst need. 

Crush down the social order, accursed and unfair, 
That 'twixt the poor wealthy our human kind  dives 
Since after death remaineth no hope to make repair, 
On this old earthly planet let each with other share; 
Be like a band of brothers that equally abides. 

The naked antique Venus shatter to swift destruction! 
Oh, fling in ruthless fury, unto the fire' s fierce jaws, 
Pictures of snow- nude bodies that wake the vain conception, 
Sadly the heart disturbing, of ultimate perfection, 
Working our maidens' downfall to lust' s destroying claws! 

Demolish all, unsparing, that pruriency engender; 
Raze palaces and temples that crimes from light defend; 
Statues of lord and tryant to molten lava render; 
Wash out the servile footprints of they who basely pander, 
Fawing behind the mighty unto the wide world' s end. 

Yea, shiver unto atoms all pomp and ostentation, 
And from its granite clothing our human life disrobe; 
Cast off its gold an purple, its grief and nauseation; 
Make life a dream unfathomed, a vision' s emanation 
That moveth to eternity exempt from passions' s probe. 

Build pyramids gigantic from out the desolation 
As a memento mori from history to arise; 
This is the art shall waken your minds in exaltation 
To face the great eternal; not whoring degradation, 
With mocking sneers grimacing; with vile and furtive eyes. 

Oh, bring ye down the deluge; too long indeed ye waited 
To see what goodlyoutcome would patient goodness get; 
Came nothing . . . ! The hyena by chatterers was replaced; 
Unto the ancient cruelty was clemency translated; 
Only the form is altered; remains the evil yet. 

Ye' ll turn then to the era of gold without alloying, 
Whereof the far blue legends oft whisper to our sense; 
Where free and equal pleasure all equal are enjoing; 
When to life' s transient flicker Death comes at last, destroying, 
Twill seem to ye an angel with tresses fair and dense. 

Then shall ye die, untroubled by love or sorrow' s savour; 
As on this planet ye have lived, your offspring shall succeed: 
The death bell  cease bewailing, with iron- tongued clangour, 
Folk, to whom e' en old fortune, hath shown her tender favour; 
None shall have cause for mourning the dead who lived indeed. 

The pestilent diseases of poverty' s dire paining, 
And eke of wealth abnormal, shall scourge not as of yore, 
And they whose growth is destined shall grow without restraining; 
Until men will to break it, the cup they' ll still be draining; 
For none shall ever perish, till life can give no more. 
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  

Beside the old Seine' s waters, with pallid looks and sombrous, 
In choach of gala splendour, the mighty Caesar passed; 
His brooding not distracted by thundrous waves upcast, 
Nor yet by stony rumbling of  equipages ponderous; 
In presence of his people, grown silent and abashed. 

With ready smile and subtle, and piercing glances scornful 
Probing the mind' s recesses where secret thoughts abide; 
With raised hand controlling a world in pomp and pride 
He greets upon his passage the ragged crowd and mournful, 
Whereto his mighty grandour mysteriously is tied. 

All loveless and unfriended, in lonely elevation, 
Like ye, is he persuaded that malice and untruth 
To human nature' s bridle alone give orientation; 
And thus the scroll of history will wind through time' s duration: 
The hammer on the anvil- a tale that knows no ruth. 

And he, the haughty summit of great oppressors blatant, 
Saluteth in passing his mute defender. Know; 
If from the world wert absent, thou, the dark cause and latent 
Of mighty overthrowing, in grandeur, high and patent, 
The Caesar, aye the Caesar, long since had fallen low. 

Your shades, with savage outrage, that conquer kind confiding; 
Your pitiless, cold smiling, no mercy can convoke; 
Your bitter mind all justice, as vain pretence, deriding; 
Dread powers, ' tis by your shadows, your shadows dark misguiding, 
He drives the poor and hostile to toil beneath his yoke. 

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . 

Paris in flames is seething, wherein the storm is bathing, 
And towers, like inky torches, flare crashing to their doom. 
Through fiery tongues devouring, that rend in waves the gloom 
Great cries and clash of weapons sound from that ocean blanzing: 
An epoch on its death- bed, with Paris for its tomb. 

Dark streets in conflagration flash glares that daze the vision; 
A- top the barricading of heaped- up granite mounds, 
To bloody confict moving, the proletarian legion; 
Its pikes and muskets gleaming, and capped with bonnets Phrygian. 
The belfreis' clangour deafens, with hoarse discordant sounds. 

Their arms with weapons landen, passing through vapours lurid, 
The women of the people, with gorgeous raven hair 
Veiling their tender bosoms; impassible and frigid, 
Pallid and cold as marble; the fire of rage and hatred 
Fierce in their black eyes burning; their eyes of deep despair. 

Oh! lanch thee in the struggle, wrapped in thy splendid tresses! 
To- day reveals heroic the poor abandoned child. 
Aloft the scarlet standard, with common justice blesses. 
Hallows thy life besmirched, thy sins and foul excesses; 
Ah, no, not thine, the stigma; but theirs who thee defiled! 

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Glistens the tranquil ocean; its plates of gleaming crystal 
Move each upon each other, in following sheets of grey. 
O' er the mysterious forest with trackless groves sepulchral, 
Their dark recesses flooding; in azure fields celestial, 
Large- faced, the full moon riseth, with proud triumphal eye. 

In gentle rocking motion, on billows quietly flowing, 
With battered wooden bare- bones, go vessels gaunt and old, 
In grey and silent passing, like eerie specters showing; 
The moon their bellied canvas is piercing with its glowing; 
It lingers as a token, a disk of fiery gold. 

Beside the shore eroded, and worn with waves' emotion, 
The Caesar keeps his vigil, where bent unto the ground, 
Mournful the willow weepeth. Wide reaches of the ocean, 
In fleet as lightning circles, all humbly make submission 
To night' s sweet silken breezes, and heave with cadent sound. 

Amid the sikes be- starred, to him a vision wended, 
Treading the time- worn forests and splendid waters clear, 
Hoar locks and brows be- darkened by sorrow' s night, descended; 
The crown of straw hangs piteous, that idile winds have rended; 
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The ancient man, King Lear. 

With mute amaze, he watches the figment of could shadows, 
Betwixt the trcery, that fair stars quivering pierce. 
A host of chaning phantoms across his mind swift follows; 
Visions of wealth and radiance- scattered by stormy echoes; 
The voices of the people; a world of sorrow fierce. 

In every man is bosomed a world of dear endeavour, 
Old Demiurgus vainly, but ceaseless, striving yet: 
In every mind existing, the world demandeth ever 
Whence hath it come, and wherefore it goeth hence, and whither; 
The flower of strange desiring, in chaos that was set. 

The yearning for perfection: the universal essence, 
Immutable it lurketh within the hearts of all; 
'Tis sown at large by hazard; the tree in full florescence 
Yet ere buds are fruited, the greater part will fall. 

Thus frozen in its ripening, the human fruit grows rigid: 
One to a slave; the other to emperor concealed, 
Covering with tinselled follies his feeble life and arid; 
Unto the sun revealing his face, forlorn and wretched; 
His face, for in each bosom the same deep self' s conceald. 

The same desires resurgent- new habits yet enclosing, 
For aye, the human fabric remaineth changeless still; 
The world' s malignant mystery in many shapes reposing; 
To none the all- deceiver its secret strange disclosing, 
With longing for the infinite the atom doth instil. 

And when ye know this semblance will cease with your expiring, 
And after ye, unchanged, dure all ye strove to mend, 
This hasting here and thither, in anxious hope, aspiring 
Fills with fatigued langour; one sole thought proves alluring: 
" This world of life is merely a dream of Death eternal." 

English version by Sylvia Pankhurst and I. O. Stefanovici
Transcribed by Raluca Antonache
School No. 10, Focsani, Romania
Home | English  |Sylvia Pankhurst