19th Century

Degradation of Toil (1835) | Charles Cole

Charles Cole was one of the finest radical poets of the early nineteenth century. His poetry was often reprinted in the major democratic newspapers of the day, such as the Northern Star, the Chartist Circular, and even Reynolds’s Newspaper. ‘Degradation of Toil’ was first printed in Cole’s collection of poetry titled A Poetical Address to His Grace the Duke of Wellington (1835). It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

In every Age, in every Nation,

Poor, degraded sons of Toil,

Sad hath been your situation,

All your labour turn’d to spoil:

Never—search through Hist’ry’s pages—

Were the useful in esteem,

Heroes, Artists, Saints, and Sages,

These, their glory nations deem.

Yet of all the aid we borrow—

All such glory can bestow—

Should we be depriv’d tomorrow,

They who reap again would sow;

Still would dwellings be erected,

Raiment still supplied to wear,

Toil is Wealth, and, though neglected,

Claims a country’s grateful care!

Sons of Toil! In every Nation,

Mark the universal plan,

Freedom wanders through creation,

Man is but enslav’d by Man:

The dignity of human nature

Assert, with Freedom still in view;

A King is but a fellow creature,

A brother—though not brother true!