Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ernest Jones, Chartist and songwriter


Ernest Jones (1819-1869) was an outstanding socialist and leader of the Chartist movement, the first national working class movement in history. Frederick Engels felt that 'he was at bottom the only educated Englishman who was entirely on our side' - see here and here. He inspired the title of John Newsinger's recent 'People's history of the British Empire' The Blood Never Dried, which I reviewed here. Yet he was also a composer of songs and I want to put online a song of his he wrote in 1851, after the Chartist movement had suffered serious defeat, something which is reflected in the song's sombre lyrics. Yet Jones kept on fighting, and overall the piece is optimistic about the future of the class struggle.

We are silent.

WE are dead, and we are buried!
Revolution's soul is tame!
They are merry o'er our ashes,
And our tyrants rule the same!
But the Resurrection's coming
As the Resurrection came.

All in silence glides the larva
Thro' its veins of red-hot ore;
All in silence lightnings gather
Round the mountain's glacier hoar;
Weight on weight, and all in silence
Swells the avalanche's snow,
Till a scarce-heard whisper hurls it
Crushing on the world below;

Drop by drop, and all in silence,
At their mound the waters grow,
Till the last wave proves too heavy,
And away the barriers go!

In the depth of toiling masses
Feeds the fire and spreads the flame,
And the foot of freedom passes
O'er the doubtlings of the tame.
God-like Freedom! Glorious Freedom!
Kindling spirits into flame.

Times will set the coldest burning,
Times that come with great events,
Like the deluge-tides returning
On decaying continents,
Sweeping worn-out wrongs before them,
Wrecks, and wrongs, and discontents.

Silent as the snowflake sinking,
Truth on truth keeps gathering strong,
Till the nations turn to thinking,
Thinking of their right and wrong:
Then some sudden thaw of feeling,
Then some unomened whisper stealing,
Hurls the mighty mass along.

"We are dead and we are buried!"
Not so! life is in us yet.
There's too much of good to hope for -
Too much evil to forget!
Rich man! mark! the tide is turning!
See! the ripples backward roll!
Brains are thinking, hearts are burning
Nations tending to their goal.

Yes! there is a few among you!
Fear of freedom's coming day;
Like ghosts amid your palaces
Thoughts of poor men force their way.
Light your glittering chandeliers:
They must die when dawn appears,
Dawn of freedom's glorious day.

Ernest Jones.
Notes to the People, 1851, vol. 1, p. 92.
From An Anthology of Chartist Literature.

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