Posts Tagged ‘Edwin Markham’

The Man With the Hoe

May 19, 2010

The Man with the Hoe
by Edwin Markham

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
To have dominion over sea and land;
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
To feel the passion of Eternity?
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this —
More tongued with censure of the world’s blind greed —
More filled with signs and portents for the soul —
More fraught with menace to the universe.
What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look;
Time’s tragedy is in the aching stoop;
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned, and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Powers that made the world.
A protest that is also a prophecy.
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream,
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?
O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?

Image from Shorpy.


(By Robert E. Jenkins, of the Chicago Bar.)

Note — Markham’s “Man With the Hoe” is an insult to every farmer and every farmer’s son in America. It draws a picture that has no foundation in fact. It is utterly vicious, in that it degrades honorable labor and promotes contempt for work and dissatisfaction, unrest and despair where there should be hope, happiness and courage. It and all similar woeful wailings are worse than worthless trash. — R.E. Jenkins.

The man with the hoe of whom I shall write,
The American man who stands forth in his might;
The American king, where hard, honest toil
Sheds halo of glory o’er tillers of soil.

This man with the hoe, the typical man,
Of the husbandman noble, and not under ban,
But free to do right, with open, fair chance,
To their own and their children’s best fortunes advance.

This man with the hoe, foundation of wealth,
Supplies grain for the trader and food to save health;
He drives away famine and want and distress,
And ushers in plenty all people to bless.

This man with the hoe is type of the best
Of our national life in the east or the west.
The ideal man of the people en masses,
The pride of Columbia, the yeomanry class.

This man with the hoe moves well in his place,
With a good manly stride and a smile on his face,
With strong, brawny arms his implement wields,
Nor leans on his hoe to gaze ’round o’er the fields.

This man with the hoe is settled for life
With the maid with the pail for his comely young wife;
They earn their own home, they toil and they strive,
They bear trials with courage and hopefully thrive.

This man with the hoe keeps up with the age,
He reads through the evening the works of a sage,
Or a tri-weekly paper or book of the farm,
Till wisdom and knowledge both give his life charm.

This man with the hoe is father of boys,
Six fine, manly sons share his cares and his joys;
They work on the farm as farmer’s boys do,
Then attend school in winter when working is through.

This man with the hoe was faithful to God,
Was sustained from above as life’s journey he trod,
Took his children to church and taught them to trust,
To observe all the laws and in dealings be just.

This man with the hoe saw his children succeed,
Grow up and go forth different callings to lead,
Saw the lawyer, the merchant, the farmer contented,
The pulpit and platform and press represented.

This man with the hoe and his true, loving wife,
Blessed the world and were each blessed with long, happy life;
Was honored with office and places of trust,
The reward of the man who is earnest and just.

The man with the hoe, the man with the hoe,
You can find him abounding wherever you go,
One knowing him not has wailed o’er his lot,
And drenched him with tears, though he needed them not.

Who in our country most laurels has won,
The barefoot from the farm or the millionaire’s son?
This one in his ease fails high purpose to press,
The other necessity drives to success.

These men of the hoe, look on them with pride!
In all trades and professions through the land far and wide
The farmer’s boy heads, Hard work made him strong,
Take the hoe for his emblem! Enshrine it in song.

Oh man of the hoe, oh man of the plane,
Oh man of the brake on the swift rolling train,
Man of the toilers whoever you be,
Your labor is patent of true dignity.

The pess’mists standard for men is all wrong,
He rails at the wealthy and envies the strong;
‘Tis manhood, not money, we should prize here on earth,
What a man is, not has, along measures true worth.

Most sons of the rich and all sons of ease,
Who lazily live and seek themselves but to please,
Are failures indeed. For all life is strife
And worth only to live is the strenuous life.

Shame on the teachers of hopeless despair,
Who call man a brute, crushed down under care;
Who degrade and debase in their doctrine of woe,
The real, manly, triumphant, good man with the hoe.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Jul 5, 1899


Its Author Received the Tribute That Parody Pays to Genius.

Kansas City Journal: No publication of recent date has evoked such widespread and varied discussion as Prof. Edwin Markham’s “The Man With the Hoe.” Markham took as his text Millet’s picture, showing an uncouth peasant leaning on his hoe and staring into a blank world with eyes deadened to all intelligence. There can be no question as to the power of the poem from a literary standpoint. All the critics admit that. But there is hot disputation over the question of whether or not the painter and the author have made a true characterization of a class of humans really existing in the civilized world. The poem degrades the man with the hoe to a level with the beasts of the field, and the two most striking verses are here repeated:

“Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.
Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

“O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
Is this the handiwork you give to God,
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched?
How will you ever straighten up this shape;
Touch it again with immortality;
Give back the upward looking and the light;
Rebuild in it the music and the dream,
Make right the immemorial infamies,
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?”

One thing, however, is sustained by every American critic. There is no such being in America as is here pictured. If intended to apply to the American agricultural laborer we must agree with Mr. Ralph E. Jenkins of Chicago, who has contributed an article holding up to admiration the “qualities of self-respect, independence and intelligence to be found in the American rural classes.” With considerable heat Mr. Jenkins says: Markham’s ‘Man With the Hoe’ is an insult to every farmer and every farmer’s son in America. It draws a picture that has no foundation in fact. It is utterly vicious, in that it degrades honorable labor and promotes contempt for work and dissatisfaction, unrest and despair where there should be hope, happiness and courage. It and all similar woeful wailings are worse than worthless trash.”

As is true of every poem worth remembering, many imitations have been made of Markham’s verses and not a few parodies. In the Chicago Time-Herald Mr. S.E. Kiser gives us the picture of a drunken man hanging to a post, together with some lines, from which we quote as follows:

“Bowed by a weight of fiery stuff, he leans
Against the hitching post and gazes ’round!
Besotted emptiness is in his face,
He bears a load that still may get him down
Who made him dull to shame and dead to pride,
A thing that cares not and that never thinks,
Filthy, profane, a consort for the pig?
Who loosened and let down that stubbly jaw?
Whence came the scum adhering to those lips?
What was it clogged and turned away his brain?

“O masters, lords and rulers in our land,
Must this foul solecism still
Be tolerated in an age when men
Grasp power from the circumamorent air
And speak through space across the roaring gulfs?
Must this vile thing be left to wed at will
And propagate his idiotic spawn,
A shame upon the age in which we live,
A curse on generations to be born?”

And then comes Hester A. Benedict, in the Pacific Ensign, denying that “Down all the stretch of hell to its last gulf, there is no shape more terrible than this.” She holds that lower yet is the woman who must consort with this bestial thing, saying:

“Look into that ‘last gulf,’ O poet! I pray thee,
Down, down where its nether cave leans,
And find there — God help us — a ‘shape’ to gain-say thee,
A shape that affrighteth the fiends.
And listen, O listen! For through all the thunder
A voice crieth — heavy with woe —
‘I, I am the woman, the woman that’s under
The heel of “The Man With the Hoe.”‘

“She is the begotten of derelict ages,
Of systems senescent the flaw,
She is the forgotten of singers and sages —
The creature of lust and of law.
The tale of the ‘Terror’ — the ox’s brute brother,
Can never be told overmuch,
But she is the vassal, and she is the mother,
The thrice-accursed mother of such.

“Look up from that last gulf, thou newest evangel,
Thou builder of ladders for men,
Look up from the pleading, pale face of the angel
That wooeth a prince of the pen.
And sometimes, a little, tho’ half the world wonder,
And critics cry high and cry low —
Sing out for the woman — the woman that’s under
The heel of ‘The Man With the Hoe.'”

Of the parodies that have been written perhaps none is better calculated to affect our risibilities — particularly at this season when the voice of the lawn mower is heard in the land — than a bit given without the name of the author in the Chicago Tribune:

“Bowed by the meanness of the act, he leans
Upon the handle, gazes on the ground.
With empty stomach — ’tis but 5 a.m. —
And on his back naught but an undershirt.
Who made him dead to other people’s rights,
A thing that cares not how much woe he makes,
Stolid and selfish brother to the ox;
His is the hand that shoves that thing along
Whose loud, infernal racket breaks the sleep!
Is this thing, made in likeness of a man,
To have dominion o’er the neighborhood;
To end the tired dreamer’s morning nap;
And shall no victim have the right to shoot him?
Is this the dream of all the ages past,
For whose sake bends the spacious firmament?
Down all the block to its remotest house
There is no dread so terrible as this —
More potent to o’erwhelm the soul with wrath,
More filled with portent of a day’s unrest —
More fraught with emphasized profanity!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

O masters, lords and aldermen, give ear!
How will ye deal out justice to this man?
How answer when some gaunt, long-suffering wretch
Whose slumbers he has murdered craves the right
To punch his head off and once more bring peace
To a distracted neighborhood? Ye men —
Ye men who rule the town, ’tis up to you!”

Daily Iowa State Press (Iowa City, Iowa) Sep 9, 1899


Question of His Responsibility for His Condition.

To the Editor of the Tribune —

Sir: Would it be possible through your paper to gain an expression of the opinion held by women in general on that topic so widely discussed of late, “The Man with the Hoe?”

Interest in the subject is not confined to those able to make a literary or artistic criticism; women who are students of the most elementary psychological and sociological questions are seeking to know how much of the blame for “The Man’s” condition ought really to be thrown upon the man himself. There seems to be in Mr. Markham’s verse no recognition of any obligation on the part of each individual to assume a share of the responsibility of his own intellectual advancement. Regard, if you will, “the man with the hoe” as a type of his class, and that class of the lowest social order; he surely cannot be divested of some responsibility for his own condition. Then is society wholly to blame for the existence of such as he?

Certainly no thoughtful person can have seen Millet’s picture or a reproduction of it, without receiving a profound impression, in part sobering if not saddening. Yet there are those who have gazed upon the painting and have found there portrayed a certain peace. To me, at least, there is no hopelessness in the man’s pictured figure; rather it speaks of thankfully taking a rest, found sweet because earned by strenuous effort. I claim that Millet’s peasant is not the oppressed creature represented by the poet. I deny the oppression. To say that this labor is oppressed because he works at a task that compels him to look more often at the earth than at the sky is as unreasonable as to declare that the millionaire oppressed when he is taxed to the full value of his property and is required to keep up repairs.

Mr. Markham calls upon the world to answer for the man’s “dulled brain.” He leads us to forget for a time that in the beginning all were dull of brain; that men must raise themselves, and that they can only do so through unceasing education. It is unfair to charge the world with effects springing from the free will acts of the individual. Such free acts, wrongly directed, have brought “The Man” to his present state. He should, I hold, be regarded as the result of the practice of shirking mental exertion.

No one can question, however, the responsibility of the world to lend needful aid or to even urge it upon any who are striving for personal development; yet, if the man’s “dulled brain” will not rouse him to response, impel him to action, he must abide the consequences. To make the world answerable for the result would be a monstrous wrong. What “made him dead to rapture and despair” but his own unheeding of the first faint impulse to reach beyond? Mental slothfulness checked desire, will to overcome was not put forth, and so it is sadly true that

Down all the stretch of hell to its last gulf
There is no shape more terrible than this,

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
More fraught with menace to the universe.

Thus “The Man” now. He is here, the result of ages of self-neglect. In the far dim past the choice has made; some remained as “brothers to the ox” and some elected to know

Plato and the swing of Pleiades,
***the long reaches of the peaks of song.

But even yet, if this man will cast aside the indolence of mind which has cursed his race, he, too, may see

The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose,

as they were seen by the first venturers in the field of thought. And though it is eternally true that man himself must make himself, it does not follow that no responsibility rests upon the seeing to help the blind. Women, whose work it is to uplift into light and beauty the lives of the lower classes, feels this and is striving to overcome wherever it is possible the effects of ages of mental indolence.

The slothfulness of the adult is almost incurable, yet free self-activity must be stimulated, and they who believe “the child to be father to the man” look to the little ones whose youthful training will help them to battle against some of the evil brought into the world by the great Army of the Unthinking. Can we not believe that the kindergarten toddler of today is able to grasp as deep a thought as that which dawned on the comprehension of the first man who did not shirk mental exertion in those long past ages when reflection began to challenge humanity to a struggle? And this child, though he may become a man with a hoe, a veritable toiler, need he be as a “brother to the ox?”

— F.J.S. in New York Tribune.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Aug 7, 1899

The general opinion of the enlightened public seems to be, after due consideration, that Mr. Markham, the poet of the “Man with the Hoe” got the cart before the horse when he suggested that this poor man was the creation of the rich and the powerful. On the contrary the man with the hoe antedates all other men of modern times and the rich and the powerful are his creation.

It was the man with the hoe in its ancient rude form that began the structure of civilization. Then he got a plough and became better off, then he invented agricultural machines of all sorts and wealth and culture followed.

He is now as he always was, the author and finisher of all civilization. The poet who would try to make a brute of him is a degenerate. Having within him all the springs of progress and wealth if he is a brute he is a self-made one. It is “the man with the growler” that is an off scouring of civilization, not the man with an implement of agriculture in his hand.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Aug 18, 1899

There is a singular relationshiop of blood and marriage among these perils. They are interwoven and concomitant. Unlike as are the men in whom they are separtely embodied, the man through whom they all become possible is the celebrated “man with the hoe.”

HEAR A PARABLE OF THE MACHINE, THE MONEY BAG, THE MOUTH AND THE HOE. The man with the machine persuaded the man with the hoe to vote precisely as he told him and thus made himself of much value as a commodity of barter or an instrument of assessment. The man with the money bag, desiring protection or power, went into the market place and found there the man with the machine, whereupon these two discovered a community of interest. This worked well until the man with the hoe grew suspicious that his part in the transaction, while the most important, was the least profitable. Then appeared the man with the mouth, promising to wind up the concern, distribute the assets and alter the laws of nature so far as necessary to effect a universal exchange of hoes for money bags. This programme was not fully carried out, but the machine was put temporarily out of repair, the money bag was sent abroad for its health, the mouth had an opportunity to explain some of its promises and retract the rest, and THE HOE, HAVING MARCHED IN SEVERAL PROCESSIONS AND GAINED MUCH EXPERIENCE, WENT ON HOEING AS BEFORE.

I do not mean to say that this somewhat allegorical description has ever been completely realized on any large scale in our country, but certain fragmentary features of it may be dimly recognized here and there in our politics. Men whose chief distinction is their wealth, men, whose only profession is the manipulation of political wires (underground), men who are related to real statemen as quacks to real physicians, have at times found their way into our ruling classes. Their presence is a menace to the integrity and security of the democracy.

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Dec 9, 1901

The Man With the Hoe


The New Version.

“Who, indeed, is the ‘Man with the Hoe?'”
Said the preacher whose price is ten thousand or so,
“He’s nothing to me; he never has given
A dollar to buy my reserved seat in Heaven;
To be sure, our churches from taxes are free,
And the ‘Man with the Hoe’ pays the tax, but you see —
If churches were taxed and the tax couldn’t shirk,
Then some of us preachers must needs go to work.
And that would ne’er do, for we’re called of the Lord
To preach about Jonah, the Whale and the Gourd.”

“From the soles of your feet to the crown of your head
The ‘Man with the Hoe’ has clothed you.” I said,
“And even that binding of calfskin you prize
Because it preserves superstition and lies
Which you say are ‘holy,’ so, of course, it is so,
Was made by the overworked ‘Man with the Hoe.'”
But the preacher was shocked; he really didn’t know —
He guessed he wouldn’t bother ’bout the “Man with the Hoe.”

“Who in Hell is this ‘Man with the Hoe?'”
Asked the political boss, with his millions in “dough.”
“He’s the man who created the wealth you bestow
On race touts and gamblers and much vulgar show;
He’s the man who you rob by political stealth
And the woman who slaves to pile up your wealth
Through laws that are passed by your corrupt ‘pull’ —
He’s the man whose eyes you keep covered with ‘wool.'”

Yet this Man

Gathers the fuel and boils the pot
And cooks the dinner for the whole blessed lot
Of liars and loafers and political bums —
Then weeps that for him the good time never comes.
Then he follows the wagon and “carries the can,”
And goes to the polls and votes for their man.
The biggest damned fool in this whole “bloomin’ show”
Is this very same fellow, this “Man with the Hoe.”

Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio) Mar 23, 1904


William J. Lampton, after reading Markham’s world-famous poem, penned this, “The man with the ‘Dough'”:

Bowed by the weight of capital,
He leans
Upon the bank,
And gazes on the ground
That looks to him to people it
With all producing industries;
He fills the emptiness of ages
With his energy,
And on his credit bears
The burden of a world
That needs his strength;
Wealth makes him dead
To doubting and despair.
A thing that grieves not
And who always hopes,
Stolid and Stunned,
The brother to the ox
Is raised by him
To higher brotherhood,
Who loosens and lets down the jaw
That chews up Poverty?
Whose hand slants back the tide
Of panic and defeat?
Whose breath blows out
The light of failure and decay?
The man with the “dough.”
And don’t you forget it.

Title: International wood worker, Volume 14
Authors: Amalgamated Woodworkers’ International Union of America, Machine Woodworkers’ International Union of America
Publisher: Amalgamated Wood-Workers’ International Union of America, 1904 (Google book LINK)

The Forgotten Man

May 18, 2010

“The forgotten man” has become a sort of a joke, even among Democrats. But it doesn’t seem funny to the man looking for a job.

Berkeley Daily Gazette – May 11, 1933


IT WOULD NOT be easy, if possible, to advance a serious political thought that had never occurred to any thinker before, or to express it with a catchy phrase never used before — unless by coining a brand new slang phrase — and it is not to be supposed that so sincere and scholarly a person as Franklin D. Roosevelt had any notion of impressing the country with anything entirely original when he brought out his “Forgotten Man.” Nevertheless it struck the country either as something new or in a new place, and has aroused much discussion, doubtless because most people thought it was new. Brisbane having said that Roosevelt “invented” it set the literary folks to digging and here are the results.

The “Forgotten Man” was “invented” as far back as 1883 by Professor William Graham Sumner of Yale University who wrote a treatise on “What Social Classes Owe to Each Other,” in which appeared one chapter headed, “A Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of,” and another headed, “The Case of the Forgotten Man Further Considered.” In these chapters Professor Sumner wrote:

“The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society, through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.

“It is plain that the Forgotten Man and the Forgotten Woman are the real productive strength of the country. The Forgotten Man works and votes — generally he prays — but his chief business in life is to pay. His name never gets into the newspapers except when he marries or dies. He is an obscure man. He may grumble sometimes to his wife, but he does not frequent the grocery, and he does not talk politics at the tavern.

“The Forgotten man is not a pauper. It belongs to his character to have something. Hence he is a capitalist, though never a great one. He is a poor man in the popular sense of the word, but not in a correct sense. In fact, one of the most constant and trustworthy signs that the Forgotten Man is in danger of a new assault is that the poor man is brought into the discussion. ***

“Any one who cares for the Forgotten Man will sure to be considered a friend of the capitalist and an enemy of the poor man. *** The Forgotten Man never gets into control. He has to pay both ways.”

Since that time many politicians have used this idea with particularly telling effect. There is a strong emotional appeal in being a “Forgotten Man,” or in considering such a man. Walter H. Page, formerly ambassador to Great Britain once used it to describe the more unfortunate people of the Southern states. Governor Roosevelt described the “Forgotten Man” at some length in a radio address last April, in which he said:

“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized, but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917, that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the “Forgotten Man” at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

St. Petersburg Times – Oct 10, 1932

Interesting how the author of the above opinion piece quotes Mr. Sumner, and even uses the asterisks to draw attention to the quotes, then goes on to quote FDR, whose statement is completely contradictory to those quotes!

Lofty, Yes. But noble? Probably not. Edwin Markham seems to have read The Forgotten Man, but I am not so sure he grasped the real meaning, or just chose to ignore it.  Mr. Sumner’s point, as I understood it,  was  in order to “give” to somebody, you must take it from someone else, and it is always taken from the Forgotten Man.  If that’s the case, then in order to really help him, you need to cut spending,  cut taxes, and eliminate  cronyism and trade unions, which create the burden that is heaped  onto  The Forgotten Man.

The Forgotten Man

NOT on our golden fortunes builded high —
Not on our boasts that soar into the sky —
Not upon these is resting in this hour
The fate of life future; but upon the power
Of him who is forgotten — yes on him
Rest all our hopes reaching from rim to rim.
In him we see all of earth’s toiling bands,
With crooked backs, scarred faces, shattered hands.

HE seeks no office and he asks no praise
For all the patient labor of his days
He is the one supporting the huge weight;
He is the one guarding the country’s gate
He bears the burdens on these earthly ways;
We pile the debts, he is the one who pays.
He is the one who holds the solid power
To steady nations in their trembling hour.
Behold him as he silently goes by,
For it is at his word that nations die.

SHATTERED with loss and lack,
He is the man who holds upon his back
The continent and all its mighty loads —
This toiler who makes possible the roads
On which the gilded thousands travel free —
Makes possible our feasts, our roaring boards,
Our pomps, our easy days, our golden hoards.
He gives stability to nations he
Makes possible our nation, sea to sea.
His strength makes possible our college walls —
Makes possible our legislative halls —
Makes possible our churches soaring high
With spires, the fingers pointing to the sky.

SHALL then this man go hungry, here in lands
Blest by his honor, builded by his hands?
Do something for him; let him never be
Forgotten; let him have his daily bread;
He who had fed us, let him now be fed.
Let us remember all his tragic lot —
Remember, or else be ourselves forgot!

ALL honor to the one that in this hour
Cries to the world as from a lighted tower —
Cries for the Man Forgotten. Honor the one
Who asks for him a glad place in the sun.
He is a voice for the voiceless. Now, indeed,
We have a tongue that cries the mortal need.

Gettysburg Compiler – Oct 22, 1932