Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday's Poetry: "Workers of the World, Awaken" and "Joe Hill"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator
Union Sympathizer

American twentieth century union activist Joe Hill was just thirty-five-years-old when he was executed by the state of Utah for the murders of a grocer (who was a former policeman) and his son.  While Hill most likely had nothing to do with those murders, his execution did rid the country of one of its best known and most admired labor leaders.

Not only did Joe Hill write many powerful poems and songs about America's working men and women, after his early and controversial death, he also became the focus of another generation of songwriters and poets.  One of the highlights of my life was hearing iconic American folksinger Joan Baez sing the ballad Joe Hill at a relatively small venue in Lawrence, Kansas, a few years back.

In honor of Labor Day 2014, I am including both Workers of the World, Awaken by Joe Hill and Joe Hill written by Phil Ochs and made famous by the lyrical voice of Joan Baez in today's post.  Take them to heart - and always try to buy union goods!

Workers of the World, Awaken
by Joe Hill

Workers of the world, awaken!
Break your chains. demand your rights.
AII the wealth you make is taken
By exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission
From your cradles to your graves?
ls the height of your ambition
To be good and willing slaves?

         Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!
         Fight for your own emancipation;
         Arise, ye slaves of every nation.
         In One Union grand.
         Our little ones for bread are crying,
         And millions are from hunger dying;
         The end the means is justifying,
         'Tis the final stand.

If the workers take a notion,
They can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean
They can tie with mighty chains.
Every wheel in the creation,
Every mine and every mill ,
Fleets and armies of the nation,
Will at their command stand still.

Join the union, fellow workers,
Men and women, side by side;
We will crush the greedy shirkers
Like a sweeping, surging tide;
For united we are standing,
But divided we will fall;
Let this be our understanding --
"All for one and one for all.''

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might;
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying,
We'll have freedom, love and health.
When the grand red flag is flying

In the Workers' Commonwealth.

Joe Hill
by Phil Ochs

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

"In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him,
Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

"The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe," says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die."

And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Says Joe, "What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize."

"Joe Hill ain't dead," he says to me,
"Joe Hill ain't never died.
Where working men are out on strike
Joe Hill is at their side,
Joe Hill is at their side."

From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill -
Where working men defend their rights
It's there you'll find Joe Hill.
It's there you'll find Joe Hill.

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you or me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead",
"I never died," says he.
"I never died," says he.

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