A Call to the People (1850) | Anonymous

The following pro-democracy hymn was written by a writer known only as “Bandiera” and was published in the Red Republican magazine (29 June 1850 issue), edited by George Julian Harney. It has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

People of England! rouse ye from this dreaming—

Sinew your soulsfor Freedom’s glorious leap!

Look to the Future! lo! our dayspring’s gleaming,

And a pulse stirs that never more shall sleep

In the world’s heart. Men’s eyes like stars are throbbing!

The traitor-kings turn pale in Pleasure’s bower!

And at the sound that comes like thunder sobbing,

The leaves from Royalty’s treefall hour by hour,

Earthquakes leap in our temples, crumbling throne and power!

Vampires have lapped the human heart’s bestblood;

Kings robbed, and Priests have cursed us in God’s name!

Out in the midnight of the Past we’ve stood,

While fiends of darkness plied their hellish game;

We have been worshipping a gilded crown,

Which drew Heaven’s lightning-laughter on our head!

Chains fell on us as we were bending down:

We deemed our gods divine, but lo! instead

They are but painted clay!—with morn the charm hath fled!

Call ye this “Merrie England!” this the place

The cradle of great souls self-deified—

Where smiles once revelled in the Peasant’s face,—

Ere hearts were masked by gold, lips steeped in pride:

Where Toil, with open brow, went on light-hearted?

Where twain in love, law never thrust apart?

Then is the glory of our life departed

From us who sit and nurse this bleeding smart,

And slink afraid to break the laws that break the heart!

Hushed be yon herald on the walls of Fame,

Trumping this people as their country’s pride!

Weep rather with your soul son fire with shame:

See ye not how the pallaced knaves deride—

Us easily-flattered fools!—how priestcraft stealthy

Stab sat our freedom thro’ its veil of night,

Plundering the poor to flush its coffers wealthy?

Hear how the land groans in the grip of Might,

Then quaff your cup of Wrongs, and laud a “Briton’s Right!”

There’s not a spot in all this flowery land

Where Tyranny’s scatheful footmark has not been:

Oh! were it not for its all-blasting brand,

Dear God! what a sweet heaven this might have been:

Has it not hunted forth our spirits brave—

Killed the red rose that crowned our vaunted daughter’s,

Wedded our living thoughts to the dark grave,

Filled happy homes with strife, the world with slaughters?

And turned our thoughts to blood,—to gall the heart’s sweet waters!

Go forth when night is hushed, and Heaven is clothed

With smiling stars that in God’s presence roll:

Feel the proud spirit leap to them betrothed,

As angel-wings were fanning in the soul;

Feel the hot tears flood in the eyes up-turning,—

The tide of goodness heave its brightest waves;–

Then is it not hard to “lash the Godward yearning

With the mad thought that ye are still earth’s slaves?

Oh! how long will ye make your heart sits living graves!

Is the love dead that nerved our ancient sires,—

Who, bleeding, wrung their rights from tyrants olden:

God-spirits have been here for Freedom’s fires,

From out their ashes to earth’s heart enfolden,

The mighty dead lie slumbering around!

Their names come as if God’s soul shook the air;

Life leaps from where their dust makes holy-ground:

Their deeds spring forth in glory! live all where!

And are we traitors to th’ eternal trust we bear?

O! but to give ye, slaves! this heart of mine,

‘Twere sweet to kiss the scaffold-block to-morrow!

To proudly leap death’s darkness, to let shine

The Future’s hope thro’ your soul-binding sorrow!

There is a chasm in the coming years

Agape for Strife’s Niagara of blood!

Or to be filled with our slow ceaseless tears,

Ere it be bridged by bond of Brotherhood!

We’ve yet to stand in fight, true as the Spartan stood!

Immortal Liberty, I see thee stand

Like morn just stept from Heaven, fresh on a mountain;

With rosy feet, and blessing-laden hand;

Thy brow star-crowned! thy heart love’s living fountain!

O when wilt thou string on the people’s lyre

Joy’s broken chord? and on the People’s brow

Place Empire’s crown? light up thy beacon-fire

Within their hearts with an undying glow

Nor give us blood for milk, as men with now!

Old poets tell us of a golden age

When earth was sinless, gods the guests of men

Ere guilt had dimmed the heart’s illumined page;

And Sinai-voices say ’twill come again!

Oh happy age, when love reigns in each heart,

And time to live shall be the poor man’s dower;

When martyrs bleed no more, nor poets smart;

Mind be the only diadem of power!

People! it ripens now! Awake and strike the hour!

Hearts high and mighty gather in our cause;

Bless! bless, O God! and crown their earnest labour!

Who dauntless go to win us equal laws,

With brain-wrought armour, and with spirit-sabre.

Bless! bless, O God! the proud Intelligence

That, like a sun, dawn son the People’s forehead!

Humanity springs from them like incense!

The Future bursts upon them, boundless, starried!

They weep repenting tears that they so long have tarried!