The Slave Of The Capitalist.

Oh! tell me not that I am free-
Repeat no more the mocking story;
I hate the cant of liberty
E’en worse than that of tyrant hoary.
Oh! rank me not with free born men,
For chains invisible enthrall me;
I scorn to prate of freedom, when
A host of tyrants whip and gall me.
The dark-skinned Ethiope may sing,
In dirge-like strains, to wile his sorrow;
Be mine the bolder task to wing,
The thought that breaks my thrall to-morrow.
Thou living thought – thou god within,
Still fire my soul to freedom’s battle;
The wish’d for goal, oh! let me win,
Or die amid the strife and rattle.
I long to reach that lofty state,
Where action springs from sense of duty;
And man in conscious strength elate,
Walks upright, like a thing of beauty.
Not fearing any earthly foe,
But hating falsehood and dishonour;
Living a lovely life below,
A transcript of its mighty donor.
But now I am a wretched slave
As ever moil’d in mine or quarry,
Producing wealth for fool or knave,
Condemn’d, through life, his loads to carry.
I am a slave – a thing of use –
A master’s will perforce obeying
His haughty looks, or foul abuse
My every word and actions swaying.
Then tell me not that I am free,
Repeat no more the mocking story;
I hate the cant of liberty
E’en more than that of tyrant hoary.

Title:The Slave Of The Capitalist.


Publication:The Bradford Observer

Published in:Bradford

Date:February 14th 1861

Keywords:industry, politics


This poem harks back the radical verse of the 1840s, especially in its equating of the lot of the industrial worker with slavery. It was published before the Civil War and the effects of the Cotton Famine and represents a type of angry political verse which became scarcer in newspapers in the north of England as unemployment increased to epidemic levels. Although this is not exactly Marxist in its sentiment, it certainly displays a high degree of class consciousness, and the rejection of the illusion is especially interesting. – SR