This poem titled ‘The Capitalist’ was written by someone who signed himself “R,” and was first printed in George Julian Harney’s (pre-Marxist) socialist Red Republican magazine. It is a poem that tells of the coming vengeance of the working classes against the ruling capitalist classes, or, as many British radicals at the time put it, “aristocracy and moneyocracy.” The poem has been newly transcribed by Stephen Basdeo in 2021.
On the glittering piles of wealth he gaz’d,
(His heavy coffers hold;)
Till his giddy brain with the sight was daz’d,
His heart was chang’d to gold.
Soon all human feelings sickening died
Crush’d by that passion’s pow’r,
As the life-parch’d flow’rs of the morning fade
Scorch’d by noon’s blazing hour.
And the blood that cours’d through his portly frame,
Forgot its crimson dye–
To the glowing gold pour’d thro’ ev’ry vein,
It ow’d vitality.
He dwells in a mansion whose splendour mocks
Noble or regal state;
Like a bloated spider their life he sucks
Whose toils his wealth create!
He throws round his victims the iron net,
Which want has wove for him.
And he joys to see on their pale cheeks set
The seal of hunger grim.
And he hath search’d out what was never known,
To Alchymists of old
He taketh his brothers sinew and bone
And melts to yellow gold!
The dawn looks forth where his plundered serfs
Their weary labours ply:
While the latest star which the midnight gives,
Quits, ere they cease, the sky.
Seethe blood shot eye and the haggard form,
The idiotic stare,—
And consumption’s slow insidious worm,
Are brands his servants bear.
Stern manhood o’erpowered his sturdy strength
Bows in the deadly strife;
And the throbbing brow of opening youth
With cares of old is rife.
A hale old age, save in ancient song
To workers is unknown
(But a sleepless angel each blighting wrong
In God’s daybook writes down!)
Bravely, O bravely, the golden flood,
The rich man quaffs the while;
And little he recks if his brother’s blood
Its lustre somewhat soil;
Honours and titles await his call
With aught earth’s confines hold,
For the nations (like they of Dathan) all
Adore the calf of gold!
O fell is the noble’s insane misrule,
When trampled nations obey;
And blackest of all the plagues of hell,
Is the priest’s unbounded sway.
But this goodly earth is more deeply curst
By mammon’s blacker slaves.
Who answer the anguished cry for bread
By digging pauper graves.
O quail ye not lest that skeleton host
May turn and their tyrants slay?
For the hunter feareth that hour the most,
When the hunted stand at bay.
Say paled not your cheek when that dying howl
Of hunger past your doors,
Lest your children’s clutch of your hoarded spoil
Should prove less firm than yours?
For the time draws nigh when the reck’ning due
With brigands shall be made
And the long arrears and interest too,
In full shall be repaid:
And O when that day of maddening strife,—
Of long-pent Justice comes
When the people’s watch word is—“Life for life”
God help the guilty ones.
 ‘R.’, ‘The Capitalist’, Red Republican, 26 October 1850, 152.
Categories: 19th Century, anti-capitalism, Communism, Democracy, George Julian Harney, poem, Poetry, Red Republican, Socialism
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