Category Archives: Geographical Area

Marking the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter Of The Forest in Sherwood Forest with a sing-a-long

Robin and Roo will be leading a sing-a-long this Sunday by The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest to mark the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter Of The Forest and linking this to land rights, fracking and universal basic income in our present day.

https://www.facebook.com/events/530204757394442/

What’s the Charter Of The Forest, I hear you say… see hear for more information… https://thenewputneydebates.com/

Newton Rebels of 1607 in Northamptonshire

Nick Hayes just put me on to this amazing page about the Newton Rebels of 1607 in Northamptonshire which was part of the Midlands Revolt concerning enclosure. Have a look at the photos from their 400th anniversary in 2007

http://www.newtonrebels.org.uk/rebels/history.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midland_Revolt

 

The Ballad Of The Green Backyard

The Green Backyard in Peterborough have just signed a 12 year lease, winning an amazing victory saving land from some dubious business people and a council which has some amazing people in it …and others with more questionable motives. Read about it in the Peterborough Telegraph:

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/environment/we-are-naturally-delighted-future-secured-for-peterborough-s-the-green-backyard-after-signing-new-12-year-lease-1-8181733

The Ballad of the Green Backyard

In twenty zero eight, two enterprising souls
Set to work to realise their very worthy goals
They met allies and met baddies, now listen as i tell
A tale of Peterborough’s finest and some pond scum straight from hell

There’s pair of Antonelli’s, both grafters through and through
Give them tools and wellies… there is nothing they can’t do
I sure want them on my team when we build the barricades
As we fight the fight for all that’s right with rascals and comrades

Three cheers for the green backyard, ’tis a glorious hour for people power

On two acres of good land that never knew concrete
They set to work creating a paradise complete with
Veg and flowers and people, and ponds and compost loos
But a few in power (with faces sour) had some other views

In twenty and eleven, the council battle began
Machen and Kneally, they worked an evil plan
And we mustn’t forgot Cereste, they don’t get more corrupt
Someone should him soon arrestie, cos he’s such an evil fuck ….refrain

But in our growers’ corner we’ve Gillian Beasly who was
A very early ally and the council chief exec too!
And props to Jay and Allan, more people joined the team
Now the scene is set, the players met, all captured in one tune

We mustn’t forget ‘Metal’, who invite arty sorts
And let them loose around here, to sow creative thoughts
Like ‘if this were to be lost’ and ‘this land is our land’
And ‘people before profit when when we all together stand’ ….refrain

‘For sale’ the sign was raised, this was a big mistake
Gave our growers marching orders, even set a date
But the town and country planning act, a couple of VIPs
Plus a tonne of people power brought the blighters to their knees

so to conclude my story, there’s still much work to do
but this is quite a victory, so credit where its due
and i hope our children’s children can be nurtured by this land
and people far from peterborah will know of this fine stand ….refrain

East Yorkshire Historical Society booklets on enclosure and the open field system

I’ve just finished reading these three excellent booklets about enclosure and the open field system in East Yorkshire… Two were written in late 1950s and the third in the mid eighties. All were thoroughly researched, succinct and insightful.

Continue reading

Song about the Swing Riots – Eight shillings a week

Eight shillings a week

This dates from the winter of 1830, when starving farm-workers in the Southern Counties riotously demonstrated for a basic wage of a half a crown a day. They committed a breach of the peace but otherwise harmed no one, yet after the demonstrations three of them were hanged and over four hundred were transported. At that time a loaf of bread cost a shilling.

Come all you bold Britons where’re you may be,
I pray give attention and listen to me,
There once was good times but they’re gone by complete,
For a poor man now lives on eight shillings a week.

Such times in old England there never was seen,
As the present ones now but much better have been,
A poor man’s condemned and looked on as a thief.
And compelled to work hard on eight shillings a week.

Our venerable fathers remember the year,
When a man earned thee shillings a day and his beer,
He then could live well, keep his family all neat,
But now he must work for eight shillings a week

The nobs of old England of shameful renown,
Are striving to crush a poor man to the ground,
They’ll beat down his wages and starve him complete
And make him work hard for eight shillings a week.

A poor man to labour believe me ‘tis so,
To maintain his family is willing to go,
Either hedging or ditching, to plough or to reap,
But how does he live on eight shillings a week?

So now to conclude and finish my song,
May the times be much better before too long,
May each labouring man be able to keep,
His children and wife on twelve shillings a week.

Song about the Swing Riots – Owslebury lads

Lovely track about the Swing Riots

In 1830, on November the 23rd, there was a riot in Owslebury. This was part of the wave of discontent among agricultural workers which had spread across southern England and expressed itself as the Swing Riots. A large mob formed and moved from farm to farm demanding money and threatening to destroy agricultural machinery. At Rosehill they assaulted Lord Northesk’s steward, Moses Stanbrook, wrecked a winnowing machine, and extorted £5. John Boyes, a local farmer, accompanied the mob demanding that farmers and landlords sign an undertaking which read “We, the undersigned, are willing to give 2s. per day to our married labourers, and 9s. per week to single men, in consideration of having our rent and tithes abated in proportion”. At Marwell Hall the lady of the house, Mrs. Alice Long, gave the mob £5 and signed John’s document. Eventually the mob retreated to Owslebury Down. Nine people had signed John Boyes’ document.

The rioters were tried in Winchester at the end of the year and several were executed. There was a good deal of sympathy for John Boyes and he was twice acquitted before eventually being found guilty and sentenced to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years. The trials were reported in The Times in December 1830 and January 1831. John Boyes did not complete his sentence. In 1835 the Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne, pardoned him and he returned home to his wife, Faith, and their children, in June of that year to continue farming in Owslebury. He died in Hensting in 1856.

Who Owns England blog – one year on

Guy Shrubsole is doing some excellent work here digging into data to find out who owns our land – https://whoownsengland.org/2017/09/12/who-owns-england-one-year-on-what-we-now-know/

The Cottagers Complaint – Anti-enclosure ballad from Sutton-Coldfield

The full title is ‘The Cottager’s Complaint, on the Intended Bill for Enclosing Sutton-Coldfield’ and it was written by John ‘Poet’ Freeth (1731-1808) the owner of Freeth’s Coffee House in Birmingham and a well known poet and songwriter. He published a book called ‘The Political Songster: Or, a Touch on the Times, on Various Subjects, and Adapted to Common Tunes’ which went to at least 6 editions.


How sweetly did the moments glide, how happy were the days!
When no sad fear my breast annoyed, or e’er disturbed my ease;

Hard fate! that I should be compelled my fond abode to lose,
Where threescore years in peace I’ve dwelled, and wish my life to close.

Chorus

Oh the time! the happy, happy time, which in my cot I’ve spent;
I wish the church-yard was his doom, who murders my content.

My ewes are few, my stock is small, yet from my little store
I find enough for nature’s call, nor would I ask for more!

That word, ENCLOSURE ! to my heart such evil doth bespeak,
I fear I with my all must part, and fresh employment seek.

Chorus — Oh the time, &c.

What little of the spacious plain should power to me consign,
For want of means, I can’t obtain, would not long time be mine:

The stout may combat fortune’s frowns, nor dread the rich and great;
The young may fly to market-towns, but where can I retreat?

Chorus — Oh the time, &c.

What kind of feelings must that man within his mind possess,
Who, from an avaricious plan, his neighbours would distress?

Then soon, in pity to my case, to Reason’s ear incline;
For on his heart it stamps disgrace, who formed the base design.

Chorus

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

More info at a folk song a week blog – https://afolksongaweek.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/week-103-petition-of-the-pigs-in-kent/

Original text in 1809 magazine can be found here

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission,
We humbly beg leave to present our petition,
That you will be pleas’d to recall your decree,
Which tells us that acorns no longer are free.

In Sussex and Surrey and Middlesex too,
Pigs may ramble at large without such ado;
And why, then, in Kent should pretences be found,
To drive us like culprits and thieves to the pound,

Since we, and our fathers, and others before ‘em,
Have rang’d in your woods, with all proper decorum?
No poachers are we, for no game we annoy
No hares we entrap, and no pheasants decoy;

Contented are we, if an acorn we find,
Nor wish for a feast of a daintier kind.
Besides, we are told (and perhaps not mistaken)
That you and your friends love a slice of good bacon;

But if of good bacon you all love a slice,
If pigs are to starve, how can bacon be nice?
For these and for other wise reasons of state,
We again our petition most humbly repeat,

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission,
We humbly beg leave to present our petition,
That you will repeal this severest of laws,
So your woods shall resound to our grunting applause.

Singing history pdf’s by Sing London and EFDSS

Some good stuff in these PDF’s by Sing London

https://www.efdss.org/efdss-education/resource-bank/resources-and-teaching-tools/singing-histories

Just currently looking at the ‘Petition of the Pigs in Kent’ ballad from the Kent book… https://media.efdss.org/resourcebank/docs/EFDSS_Education_RecentProjects_SingingHistoriesKent.pdf

Duncan Bourne’s Land Corporation of Ireland song

Severine from The Greenhorns just sent me this ace song about the Land Corporation of Ireland by Duncan Bourne.

Bill Finney was an ancestor of Duncan’s. His son (William) was born in Ireland and for a long time he thought that the Finneys were of Irish decent. Given that Finney is also an Irish surname. However further research revealed a long standing Staffordshire branch of Finney.


The Land Corporation of Ireland arose out of the 1879 – 1882 Land War, which saw the rise of Irish Nationalism and gave us the word “boycott”. From the summer of 1879 the Land League carried out various activities aimed at preventing the forced eviction of tenants who had fallen into arrears due to recession. These activities ranged from ostracism (the boycott), protests at the sale of leases, riots and, although not officially sanctioned, assassinations. One organiser Michael Boyton advocated that land grabbers (people who took the land of evicted tenants) should be “given the pill” ie. shot. By 1882 the Land League had been suppressed and the Reform Bills of 1884 & 1885 gave voting rights to tenants as well as the promise of reduced rents, though these did not always materialise. The Land Corporation of Ireland was set up to work land that had fallen idle due to evictions but due to the Land War it was nigh on impossible to recruit from the local population and so “caretaker” farmers were recruited from England through letters sent to local parishes. Bill Finney was one such farmer.

Lyrics

I come from Wootton, Staffordshire Bill Finney is my name
And I sought employment where I could you name it, I was game
I started down the Holly Bush serving in that drovers inn
And through talking with those droving lads my travels did begin

Come all you eager labouring lads keen for some work to do
The Land Corporation of Ireland has just the job for you

I tried my luck in the Potteries towns but my efforts came to nought
So I travelled up to Middlewich and worked there with the salt
T’was there I saw a letter requesting men to farm
For the Land Corporation of Ireland and I thought, “well what’s the harm?”

Come all etc.

We’ll pay you ten to fifteen bob to work some idle land
Where used to live a family evicted out of hand
You’ll have a house and garden and a free allowance of fuel
But don’t expect a social life your reception may be cruel

Come all etc.

So I went to Tipperary away from England’s shore
And I learned about the hardship caused by the old Land War
I learned about the ‘Boycott’ and the giving of the ‘Pill’
And of the broken promises caused by the Reform Bill

Come all etc.

And so I am a caretaker on land of sorrows shame
Don’t blame me for being English sir there’s Irish in my name
My name it is Bill Finney come drink with me a while
The Land Corporation of Ireland are the ones you should revile

Come all etc.

Smile In Your Sleep – song about Scottish Highland Clearances

Ewan McLennan just suggested this song ‘Smile In Your Sleep‘ to me, written by Jim McLean about the Highland Clearances.

Beautiful and achingly sad, I personally wonder if it needs another few verses, as I felt from The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil, that there were a number of defiant pockets of (mostly female) resistance to the Clearances which this song doesn’t touch on.

Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin
Dreams o peace an o freedom
Sae smile in your sleep, bonnie baby

Once our valleys were ringin
Wi sounds o our children singin
But nou sheep bleat till the evenin
An shielings stand empty an broken

We stood, wi heads bowed in prayer
While factors laid our cottages bare
The flames fired the clear mountain air
An many lay dead in the mornin

Where was our fine Highland mettle,
Our men once sae fearless in battle?
They stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
Soon tae be shipped owre the ocean

No use pleading or praying
All hope gone, no hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor’s a-weighing
Don’t cry in your sleep, bonnie baby

Ewan MacColl – Bring The Summer Home – 1381 The Great Revolt

Peggy Seeger also sent over this track called ‘Bring The Summer Home’ from Ewan MacColl’s 1998 reissue compilation album Antiquities.

It is about the Peasants’ Revolt (or the Great Revolt as it should be know!), the 100 Year War with France, the first attempt at an English Poll Tax and the Black Death.

Someone on the Mudcat forums has a bash at working out the lyrics here – http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=141748.

You can hear it online via this youtube mix tape…

Fred Kitchen – Brother to the Ox

fred kitchen

I was just sent a message telling me to research Fred Kitchen… his wikipedia page is here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Kitchen… Sounds like a super interesting guy.

I have just found out that Little Toller books is republishing his biography ‘Brother to the Ox’ in a few months time, which is great news as copies are going for silly money on the internet at the moment.

Whiteway Colony in the Cotswolds

whiteway colony

A group of socialists bought 41 acres of land in the Cotswolds in 1898 and then burnt the deeds… Pretty radical stuff and one of the only ones still keeping many of its ideals alive today, largely as they have no choice!

We’d like to visit Whiteway Colony very much indeed – if anyone knows someone who lives there please do give them a nudge 😉

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteway_Colony

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/3310858/What-a-carry-on-in-the-Cotswolds.html

Hey Ho, Cook and Rowe by Peggy Seeger

This song by Peggy Seeger is about the St Pancras rent strikes in 1960

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE! (Or The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
In 1960, the local council of the Borough of St. Pancras raised the rents of municipal flats.    Many working people found it difficult to meet the increased financial burden imposed upon them by these rents and, under the leadership of two “desert rats”   (Don Cook and Arthur Rowe), they organized a rent-strike which in a matter of two or three weeks became a national topic of conversation. The council’s bailiffs were sent in but were repelled after a preliminary skirmish and from that time on the rent strike took on the character of a military siege.

The tenants barricaded the buildings with barbed wire, old pianos and junk of all kinds, and from sympathisers the country over came a constant supply of canned food. The television coverage provided Britain with one of its most popular daily shows. An army of the police finally battoned their way through demonstrators to find that their only possible point of entry was through the roof. A group of intrepid police officers effected an entry and were greeted with the offer of a cup of tea from the strikers’ general staff.

See also http://www.ccradio.org/programmes/StPancrasRentStrike.html
http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/2010/oct/feature-st-pancras-rent-strike-1960-50-years
http://www.andrewwhitehead.net/nw5-and-around.html (at the bottom of the page)

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
(or: The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
Words and Music by Peggy Seeger

As true a story I’ll relate
(With a) HEY HOI COOK AND ROWE!
How the landlord told Don Cook one night,
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
You must answer questions nine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
To see if your flat is yours or mine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!

CHORUS:
Hey, ho, tell them no
With a barb-wire fence and a piano,
Took a thousand cops to make them go,
Three cheers for Cook and Rowe!

What is higher than a tree? (With a, etc.)
And what is lower than a flea?
My rent is higher than a tree,
And the landlord’s lower than a flea.
(CHORUS)

What goes on and never stops?
And what is gentler than a cop?
The tenants’ fight will never stop
And the devil is gentler than a cop.
(CHORUS)

What is stronger than a door?
And tell me what a roof is for?
Barb-wire is stronger, here’s your proof,
The bailiffs came in through the roof.
(CHORUS)
Will you get off my property?
Or will you pay the rent to me?
We’ve settled in as you can see,
Now, won’t you stop for a cup of tea?
(CHORUS)

O, now I’ve lost my board and bed,
I’ll barricade the streets instead.
So all you tenants, settle in,
Keep up the fight, you’re bound to win.
(CHORUS)

Bristol Radical History Group pamphlets

brhgI have been really enjoying reading a number of pamphlets which I picked up recently from ‘Bristol Radical History Group‘ who seem to do a lot of great work down in the south west.

This one on Anglo-Saxon Democracy is of particular interest, although there are many others which I will write up at some point soon.

These few paragraphs are good food for thought, the italics in the last paragraph are mine:

———————————-

The Rise of the Church

If the major cause of the retreat of Anglo-Saxon democracy is the increasing use of charters to create bookland beyond the control of the local courts and thus the local community then it also has to be accepted that the use of charters to gain rights and privileges at the expense of the local populace was first introduced by the Roman Catholic church and all of the charters of pre-Conquest England were denrived from the form of the private charter of the later Roman empire. Continue reading

Edward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access

southcountryEdward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access taken from ‘The South Country’ (1906).

You can buy a lovely edition of the book from Little Toller here – http://littletoller.co.uk/bookshop/nature-classics/the-south-country/ or see a digital version here – https://archive.org/stream/southcountry00thomuoft/southcountry00thomuoft_djvu.txt

CHAPTER XVI

255-7 THE END OF SUMMER KENT BERKSHIRE — HAMPSHIRE SUSSEX THE FAIR

The road mounts the low Downs again. The bound-less stubble is streaked by long bands of purple-brown, the work of seven ploughs to which the teams and their carters, riding or walking, are now slowly descending by different ways over the slopes and jingling in the rain. Above is a Druid moor bounded by beech-clumps, and crossed by old sunken ways and broad grassy tracks. It is a land of moles and sheep. Continue reading

The Mask Of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Masque of Anarchy was Shelley’s response to the Peterloo massacre at St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, where 18 died and hundreds were injured, after Hussars charged into a rally for parliamentary reform. Written in Italy in 1819, the poem was not published until 1832, ten years after Shelley’s death.

Here are some selected verses: (from http://www.peterloomassacre.org/shelley.html)

“Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold.

Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free.

Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.

Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,

And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular;
A volcano heard afar.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many – they are few.”

Here is the full text –

As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim ;
Seven blood-hounds followed him :

All were fat ; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Lord Eldon, an ermined gown ;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.

And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.

Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.

And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies.

Last came Anarchy : he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood ;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.

And he wore a kingly crown ;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone ;
On his brow this mark I saw—
‘I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!’

With a pace stately and fast,
Over English land he passed,
Trampling to a mire of blood
The adoring multitude.

And with a mighty troop around
With their trampling shook the ground,
Waving each a bloody sword,
For the service of their Lord.

And with glorious triumph they
Rode through England proud and gay,
Drunk as with intoxication
Of the wine of desolation.

O’er fields and towns, from sea to sea,
Passed the Pageant swift and free,
Tearing up, and trampling down ;
Till they came to London town.

And each dweller, panic-stricken,
Felt his heart with terror sicken
Hearing the tempestuous cry
Of the triumph of Anarchy.

For from pomp to meet him came,
Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
The hired murderers, who did sing
‘Thou art God, and Law, and King.

‘We have waited weak and lone
For thy coming, Mighty One!
Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
Give us glory, and blood, and gold.’

Lawyers and priests a motley crowd,
To the earth their pale brows bowed ;
Like a bad prayer not over loud,
Whispering—‘Thou art Law and God.’—

Then all cried with one accord,
‘Thou art King, and God, and Lord ;
Anarchy, to thee we bow,
Be thy name made holy now!’

And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.

For he knew the Palaces
Of our Kings were rightly his ;
His the sceptre, crown, and globe,
And the gold-inwoven robe.

So he sent his slaves before
To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
And was proceeding with intent
To meet his pensioned Parliament

When one fled past, a maniac maid,
And her name was Hope, she said :
But she looked more like Despair,
And she cried out in the air :

‘My father Time is weak and gray
With waiting for a better day ;
See how idiot-like he stands,
Fumbling with his palsied hands!

‘He has had child after child,
And the dust of death is piled
Over every one but me—
Misery, oh, Misery!’

Then she lay down in the street,
Right before the horses feet,
Expecting, with a patient eye,
Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.

When between her and her foes
A mist, a light, an image rose.
Small at first, and weak, and frail
Like the vapour of a vale :

Till as clouds grow on the blast,
Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
And glare with lightnings as they fly,
And speak in thunder to the sky.

It grew—a Shape arrayed in mail
Brighter than the viper’s scale,
And upborne on wings whose grain
Was as the light of sunny rain.

On its helm, seen far away,
A planet, like the Morning’s, lay ;
And those plumes its light rained through
Like a shower of crimson dew.

With step as soft as wind it passed
O’er the heads of men—so fast
That they knew the presence there,
And looked,—but all was empty air.

As flowers beneath May’s footstep waken,
As stars from Night’s loose hair are shaken,
As waves arise when loud winds call,
Thoughts sprung where’er that step did fall.

And the prostrate multitude
Looked—and ankle-deep in blood,
Hope, that maiden most serene,
Was walking with a quiet mien :

And Anarchy, the ghastly birth,
Lay dead earth upon the earth ;
The Horse of Death tameless as wind
Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
To dust the murderers thronged behind.

A rushing light of clouds and splendour,
A sense awakening and yet tender
Was heard and felt—and at its close
These words of joy and fear arose

As if their own indignant Earth
Which gave the sons of England birth
Had felt their blood upon her brow,
And shuddering with a mother’s throe

Had turned every drop of blood
By which her face had been bedewed
To an accent unwithstood,—
As if her heart cried out aloud :

‘Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another ;

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.

‘What is Freedom?—ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well—
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.

‘’Tis to work and have such pay
As just keeps life from day to day
In your limbs, as in a cell
For the tyrants’ use to dwell,

‘So that ye for them are made
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent
To their defence and nourishment.

‘’Tis to see your children weak
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak,—
They are dying whilst I speak.

‘’Tis to hunger for such diet
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye ;

‘’Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More than e’er its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.

‘Paper coin—that forgery
Of the title-deeds, which ye
Hold to something from the worth
Of the inheritance of Earth.

‘’Tis to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.

‘And at length when ye complain
With a murmur weak and vain
’Tis to see the Tyrant’s crew
Ride over your wives and you—
Blood is on the grass like dew.

‘Then it is to feel revenge
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood—and wrong for wrong—
Do not thus when ye are strong.

‘Birds find rest, in narrow nest
When weary of their wingèd quest ;
Beasts find fare, in woody lair
When storm and snow are in the air.

‘Horses, oxen, have a home,
When from daily toil they come ;
Household dogs, when the wind roars,
Find a home within warm doors.’

‘Asses, swine, have litter spread
And with fitting food are fed ;
All things have a home but one—
Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none !

‘This is Slavery—savage men,
Or wild beasts within a den
Would endure not as ye do—
But such ills they never knew.

‘What art thou, Freedom ? O ! could slaves
Answer from their living graves
This demand—tyrants would flee
Like a dream’s imagery :

‘Thou are not, as impostors say,
A shadow soon to pass away,
A superstition, and a name
Echoing from the cave of Fame.

‘For the labourer thou art bread,
And a comely table spread
From his daily labour come
In a neat and happy home.

‘Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
For the trampled multitude—
No—in countries that are free
Such starvation cannot be
As in England now we see.

‘To the rich thou art a check,
When his foot is on the neck
Of his victim, thou dost make
That he treads upon a snake.

‘Thou art Justice—ne’er for gold
May thy righteous laws be sold
As laws are in England—thou
Shield’st alike both high and low.

‘Thou art Wisdom—Freemen never
Dream that God will damn for ever
All who think those things untrue
Of which Priests make such ado.

‘Thou art Peace—never by thee
Would blood and treasure wasted be
As tyrants wasted them, when all
Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.

‘What if English toil and blood
Was poured forth, even as a flood ?
It availed, Oh, Liberty.
To dim, but not extinguish thee.

‘Thou art Love—the rich have kissed
Thy feet, and like him following Christ,
Give their substance to the free
And through the rough world follow thee,

‘Or turn their wealth to arms, and make
War for thy belovèd sake
On wealth, and war, and fraud—whence they
Drew the power which is their prey.

‘Science, Poetry, and Thought
Are thy lamps ; they make the lot
Of the dwellers in a cot
So serene, they curse it not.

‘Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
All that can adorn and bless
Art thou—let deeds, not words, express
Thine exceeding loveliness.

‘Let a great Assembly be
Of the fearless and the free
On some spot of English ground
Where the plains stretch wide around.

‘Let the blue sky overhead,
The green earth on which ye tread,
All that must eternal be
Witness the solemnity.

‘From the corners uttermost
Of the bounds of English coast ;
From every hut, village, and town
Where those who live and suffer moan
For others’ misery or their own,

‘From the workhouse and the prison
Where pale as corpses newly risen,
Women, children, young and old
Groan for pain, and weep for cold—

‘From the haunts of daily life
Where is waged the daily strife
With common wants and common cares
Which sows the human heart with tares—

‘Lastly from the palaces
Where the murmur of distress
Echoes, like the distant sound
Of a wind alive around

‘Those prison halls of wealth and fashion.
Where some few feel such compassion
For those who groan, and toil, and wail
As must make their brethren pale—

‘Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold—

‘Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free—

‘Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.

‘Let the tyrants pour around
With a quick and startling sound,
Like the loosening of a sea,
Troops of armed emblazonry.

‘Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.

‘Let the fixèd bayonet
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.

‘Let the horsemen’s scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.

‘Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,

‘And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armèd steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.

‘Let the laws of your own land,
Good or ill, between ye stand
Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
Arbiters of the dispute,

‘The old laws of England—they
Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
Children of a wiser day ;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo—Liberty !

‘On those who first should violate
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue,
And it will not rest on you.

‘And if then the tyrants dare
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew, —
What they like, that let them do.

‘With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.’

‘Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.

‘Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.

‘And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.

‘And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular ;
A volcano heard afar.

‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain.
Heard again—again—again—

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’

George Ewart Evans and Suffolk farming tales

This is a great hour of radio – Ask the Fellows That Cut the Hay – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rv8yk

fellows-hay

In this BBC Archive On Four, historian Alan Dein celebrates the centenary of his mentor George Ewart Evans, collector of Suffolk farming tales. Evans began by chatting to his neighbours over the fireside in the 1950’s and transcribing stories about poaching, shepherding, smuggling and ditching.

The talk was of a hardscrabble life, of leaky roofs and meals of pea soup and pollard dumplings and beef only at Christmas with occasional festivities like the Whitsun fair.

Evans came from a Welsh mining village and he sympathised with the labourers’ stories about the tyranny of the trinity of the parson, squire and farmer. He was a sympathetic listener who asked allowed his community to speak for itself and he captured the stories of people whose traditions had been unbroken for generations, who worked on the land before mechanisation and who believed in magic and folk wisdom and had intuitive understanding of working with animals.

Evans’ eleven books about the working lives and folk stories of Blaxhall are a portrait of every facet of his village and paved the way for books and programmes, both fiction and not fiction, about British agricultural life.