19th Century

A Democratic Lyric (1850) | Tyrtaeus

The following pro-democracy poem was written by someone writing under the pseudonym of Tyrtaeus (in emulation of the ancient Spartan poet who, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, stirring poetry on military themes during the 7th century B.C.). It was published in Reynolds’s Political Instructor on 19 January 1850 and has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

The Ancient Greek poet Tyrtaeus

A Democratic Lyric

Year followeth year, in ceaseless train,

Another just hath flown;

And still we seek redress in vain,

Still ‘neath our burdens groan;–

Still labour on from morn till eve

For pittance bare;—and what receive

When youth and strength are gone?

The stinted dole—the pauper brand

Poor aliens in our native land!

Think not, ye men of lust and spoil,

These things may long remain;–

Our’s the ne’er-ending sweat and toil,

And thine the hard-earned gain,

That we shall, in by-corners laid,

Starve ‘midst the wealth ourselves have made,

Or beg in piteous strain

For the mere scraps from off the board

Which we have with its plenty stored:

That ragged, shoeless, in the mire,

Or ‘neath the wintry sky,

Wrung by the thoughts our wrongs inspire,

In vain shall be our cry!

In purple and fine linen clad

Though naught to you the poor and sad,

Who homeless round ye lie–

There’s One, though negatived by thee,

To whom the poor in sorrow flee.

O God! To Thee we lift our voice

With want and misery low,

Clasp our hard hands, and dare rejoice

For once: for well we know

That though Thou see’st fit to delay

The effluence of Thy perfect day,

Its gifts shall surely flow

And, to obscure Thy glorious skies,

Our torment’s smoke shall cease to rise!