Chartism

Masaniello’s Call to the Neapolitans: A Chartist Song (1839) | Anonymous

The following poem was written by a Chartist activist, whose identity remains unknown, and was published in Hugh Williams’s National Songs and Poetical Pieces (1839). The song celebrates the life and deeds of the Naples fisherman Tommaso Aniello (1620-47), who led a revolt against the Habsburg dynasty who then ruled southern Italy.

The revolt of Masaniello by Michelangelo Cerquozzi and Viviano Codazzi

To my light-toned guitar, ‘neath the sweet orange tree,

   I sang when my labour was done,

Till the voice of my country call’d loudly on me—

   “Awake from thy slumber, my son!”

There’s a spirit that lies, in the meanest disguise

   That will burst into glory and power,

When the time is at hand for that spirit to rise

   And now, brothers, now is the hour!

Not for joys of ambition, or lust of vile gold,

   Do I quit my rude home by the sea;

But to win back the “charter” of freedom of old,

   When our sires were chainless and free:

We have borne with our wrongs, till forbearance is vain,

   Till our tyrants have strengthened in power,

But the arm of the peasant shall burst through the chain,

   And now, brothers, now is the hour!

While bountiful Nature spreads plenty around,

   Shall the fruits of the earth be denied

To the wants of the workman who tilleth the ground,

   By the rich, from his labour supplied?

To my light-toned guitar, ‘neath the sweet orange tree,

   No more when the light shadows lower,

Will I sing my wild lay till my country is free

   And now, brothers, now is the hour!

[Hugh Williams’s original notes accompanying this poem were as follows]:

One of the most glorious revolutions that history records was that of Naples, under Masaniello. The people were starving, a tax had been put upon the fruits, the corn was monopolized, yet not one thing of all the vast riches the multitude took, did they appropriate to themselves, but burnt them all in the market place, crying out “Let the king live, but let the government perish!” May we not profit by this bright example, or shall the pages of history continue unfolded to us in vain?

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