Labor and the Laboring Man



Ho, ye who at the anvil toil,
And strike the sounding blow,
Where from the burning iron’s breast,
The sparks fly to and fro,
While answering to the hammer’s ring,
And fire’s intenser glow–
Oh, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And sweat the long day through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye who till the stubborn soil,
Whose hard hands guide the plough,
Who bend beneath the summer sun,
With burning cheek and brow–
Ye deem the curse still clings to earth
From olden time till now;
But, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And labor all day through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye who plow the sea’s blue field —
Who ride the restless wave,
Beneath whose gallant vessel’s keel
There lies a yawning grave,
Around whose bark the wintry wind,
Like fiends of fury rave —
Oh, while ye feel ’tis hard to toil
And labor long hours through,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, ye upon whose fevered cheeks
The hectic glow is bright,
Whose mental toil wears out the day
And half the weary night,
Who labor for the souls of men,
Champions of truth and right —
Although ye feel your toil is hard,
Even with this glorious view,
Remember, it is harder still
To have no work to do.

Ho, all who labor –all who strive,
Ye wield a lofty power;
Do with your might, do with your strength,
Fill every golden hour;
The glorious privilege TO DO
Is man’s most noble power.
Oh, to your birthright and yourselves,
To your own souls be true!
A weary, wretched life is theirs,
Who have no work to do.

Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Oct 4, 1845

Image from the North Dakota State University Library website

From the New-York Evening Post.


I walked beyond the city’s bounds,
Along an unfrequented way —
The small, uncultivated grounds
Of poverty, before me lay,
A fence of turf the spot surrounds,
The poor lone cabin was of clay.

‘Twas sunset, and its parting light,
With golden lustre, bathed the west,
But seemed to linger in its flight,
To cheer the summer day to rest;
To gladden labor’s weary sight,
Like hope within a darkened breast.

It melted till the twilight crept
With gentle step to kiss the scene,
And the soft breath of evening swept
Its incense thro’ the foliage green.
The bird had ceased its note, and slept,
And all was silent and serene.

A form within the cabin door,
In  poor and simple garb arrayed,
With face of care, deep furrowed o’er,
Look’d out upon the gath’ring shade,
“He never lingered thus before,”
She sighed, and bitter grief displayed.

A moment more, that face o’ercast,
Grew radiant with joy’s brighter ray,
The cloud had gathered — burst — and passed,
For he, her only hope and stay,
Came hurrying to his house at last,
Far down the solitary way.

He came, the man of toil and care,
With brow o’ershadowed by distress —
And met, with sad, dejected air,
The wife’s affectionate caress!
His heart seemed full! What storm was there
To cause him so much wretchedness?

A word sufficed to tell the tale;
A ship, from foreign lands away,
Had yielded to the swelling sail,
And now was anchored in the bay.
The eye was moist, the cheek was pale
That listened to the laborer’s lay.

“Oh! I am broken-hearted, and my tongue
Refuses utterance of what I know;
My brain is maddened, and, my spirit wrung,
While sinks my form beneath this dreadful blow.
Bear with me, faithful one, while I impart
The heavy sorrows of my troubled heart.

“On that far isle, where our young days were passed,
A bolt has fallen from God’s mighty hand!
Upon the forms of men disease is cast,
And blight and desolation sear the land;
On every side the waitings of despair
Rise from the lips of those who loved us there.

“Dost thou remember where the silver stream
Leaps in its wild career the vale along,
Where oft we’ve lingered in our summer dream,
And filled the air with hope’s expectant song.
In every cottage on the old hill’s side
Some of our well-beloved friends have died.

“Oh! I can see the pale and haggard face
Of her whose last farewell is ne’er forgot.
Who when she held me in her last embrace
Invoked a blessing on the laborer’s lot.
How little dreamed she when those tear drops fell,
That she would starve, and I ‘midst plenty dwell.

“To-day these dreadful tidings met mine ears.
And quick I turned my weekly earning o’er;
Tis gone, midst choking prayers and burning tears:
And Oh! I would to God it had been more.
Tis gone — and in the thought I find relief;
It checks the swelling torrents of my grief.”

The laborer ceased; his tale was o’er,
His heart unburdened of its care,
And passing in his humble door,
He bent his weary form in prayer.
The anguish that his features wore
Was passed, and hope sat smiling there.

God bless the laboring man ; –” thy bread
Is on the far-off waters cast,”
And He who came to save hath said,
“It shall return to thee at last.”
The rich shall find no softer bed,
Or happier memory in the past.

The future, it is full of flowers
To Christian hearts, so pure as thine —
And may the knowledge of these hours
Shed such a blessing upon mine,
That I may seek those joyous bowers.
Where spirits like to thee incline.

Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) Aug 7, 1847

The Daily Record (Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania) Aug 30, 1954

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