Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Weavers

By Gerhart Hauptmann

(German dramatist and poet, 1862–1946. The present play is a wonderful picture of the lives of the weavers of Silesia, driven to revolt by starvation. Moritz, a soldier, has just come home to his friends)
ANSORGE:—Come, then, Moritz, tell us your opinion, you that’s been out and seen the world. Are things at all like improving for us weavers, eh?
  MORITZ:—They would need to.
  ANSORGE:—We’re in an awful state here. It’s not livin’ an’ it’s not dyin’. A man fights to the bitter end, but he’s bound to be beat at last—to be left without a roof over his head, you may say without ground under his feet. As long as he can work at the loom he can earn some sort o’ poor, miserable livin’. But it’s many a day since I’ve been able to get that sort o’ job. Now I tries to put a bite into my mouth with this here basket-makin’. I sits at it late into the night, and by the time I tumbles into bed I’ve earned twelve pfennig. I put it to you if a man can live on that, when everything’s so dear? Nine marks goes in one lump for house tax, three marks for land tax, nine marks for mortgage interest—that makes twenty-one marks. I may reckon my year’s earnin’s at just double that money, and that leaves me twenty-one marks for a whole year’s food, an’ fire, an’ clothes, an’ shoes; and I’ve got to keep up some sort of place to live in. Is it any wonder that I’m behind-hand with my interest payments?
  OLD BAUMERT:—Some one would need to go to Berlin an’ tell the King how hard put to it we are.
  MORITZ:—Little good that would do, Father Baumert. There’s been plenty written about it in the newspapers. But the rich people, they can turn and twist things round—as cunning as the devil himself.        5
  OLD BAUMERT (shaking his head):—To think they’ve no more sense than that in Berlin!
  ANSORGE:—And is it really true, Moritz? Is there no law to help us? If a man hasn’t been able to scrape together enough to pay his mortgage interest, though he’s worked the very skin off his hands, must his house be taken from him? The peasant that’s lent the money on it, he wants his rights—what else can you look for from him? But what’s to be the end of it all, I don’t know.—If I’m put out o’ the house.… (In a voice choked by tears.) I was born here, and here my father sat at his loom for more than forty years. Many was the time he said to mother: Mother, when I’m gone, the house’ll still be here. I’ve worked hard for it. Every nail means a night’s weaving, every plank a year’s dry bread. A man would think that.…
  MORITZ:—They’re quite fit to take the last bite out of your mouth—that’s what they are.
  ANSORGE:—Well, well, well! I would rather be carried out than have to walk out now in my old days. Who minds dyin’? My father, he was glad to die. At the very end he got frightened, but I crept into bed beside him, an’ he quieted down again. I was a lad of thirteen then. I was tired and fell asleep beside him—I knew no better—and when I woke he was quite cold.…
  (They eat the food which the soldier has brought, but the old man Baumert is too far exhausted to retain it, and has to run from the room. He comes back crying with rage.)        10
  BAUMERT:—It’s no good! I’m too far gone! Now that I’ve at last got hold of somethin’ with a taste in it, my stomach won’t keep it. (He sits down on the bench by the stove crying.)
  MORITZ (with a sudden violent ebullition of rage):—And yet there are people not far from here, justices they call themselves too, over-fed brutes, that have nothing to do all the year round but invent new ways of wasting their time. And these people say that the weavers would be quite well off if only they weren’t so lazy.
  ANSORGE:—The men as say that are no men at all, they’re monsters.
  MORITZ:—Never mind, Father Ansorge; we’re making the place hot for ’em. Becker and I have been and given Dreissiger (the master) a piece of our mind, and before we came away we sang him “Bloody Justice.”
  ANSORGE:—Good Lord! Is that the song?        15
  MORITZ:—Yes; I have it here.
  ANSORGE:—They call it Dreissiger’s song, don’t they?
  MORITZ:—I’ll read it to you.
  MOTHER BAUMERT:—Who wrote it?
  MORITZ:—That’s what nobody knows. Now listen. (He reads, hesitating like a schoolboy, with incorrect accentuation, but unmistakably strong feeling. Despair, suffering, rage, hatred, thirst for revenge, all find utterance.)The justice to us weavers dealt        20
  Is bloody, cruel, and hateful;
Our life’s one torture, long drawn out:
  For lynch law we’d be grateful.
Stretched on the rack day after day,        25
  Hearts sick and bodies aching,
Our heavy sighs their witness bear
  To spirit slowly breaking.
    (The words of the song make a strong impression on Old Baumert. Deeply agitated, he struggles against the temptation to interrupt Moritz. At last he can keep quiet no longer.)
  OLD BAUMERT (to his wife, half laughing, half crying, stammering):—“Stretched on the rack day after day.” Whoever wrote that, mother, knew the truth. You can bear witness … eh, how does it go? “Our heavy sighs their witness bear” … what’s the rest?        30
  MORITZ:—“To spirit slowly breaking.”
  OLD BAUMERT:—You know the way we sigh, mother, day and night, sleepin’ an’ wakin’.
  (Ansorge has stopped working, and cowers on the floor, strongly agitated. Mother Baumert and Bertha wipe their eyes frequently during the course of the reading.)
  MORITZ (continues to read):—The Dreissigers true hangmen are,
  Servants no whit behind them;
Masters and men with one accord
  Set on the poor to grind them.
You villains all, you brood of hell——
  OLD BAUMERT (trembling with rage, stamping on the floor):—Yes, brood of hell!!!        40
  MORITZ (reads):—  You fiends in fashion human,
A curse will fall on all like you,
  Who prey on man and woman.
  ANSORGE:—Yes, yes, a curse upon them!        45
  OLD BAUMERT (clenching his fist, threateningly):—You prey on man and woman.
  MORITZ (reads):—Then think of all our woe and want,
  O ye who hear this ditty!
Our struggle vain for daily bread        50
  Hard hearts would move to pity.
But pity’s what you’ve never known,—
  You’d take both skin and clothing,
You cannibals, whose cruel deeds
  Fill all good men with loathing.        55
  OLD BAUMERT (jumps up, beside himself with excitement):—Both skin and clothing. It’s true, it’s all true! Here I stand, Robert Baumert, master-weaver of Kaschbach. Who can bring up anything against me?… I’ve been an honest, hard-working man all my life long, an’ look at me now! What have I to show for it? Look at me! See what they’ve made of me! Stretched on the rack day after day. (He holds out his arms.) Feel that! Skin and bone! “You villains all, you brood of hell!!” (He sinks down on a chair, weeping with rage and despair.)
  ANSORGE (flings his basket from him into a corner, rises, his whole body trembling with rage, gasps):—And the time’s come now for a change, I say. We’ll stand it no longer! We’ll stand it no longer! Come what may!

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