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.
Tom Dunstan: or, the Politician
(“How Long, O Lord, How Long?”)

By Robert Buchanan

(English novelist and dramatist, 1814–1901)
CROSS-LEGG’D on the board we sat,
  Like spiders spinning,
Stitching and sweating, while fat
Old Moses, with eyes like a cat,
  Sat greasily grinning;        5
And here Tom said his say,
  And prophesied Tyranny’s death;
And the tallow burned all day,
And we stitch’d and stitch’d away
  In the thick smoke of our breath.        10
Poor worn-out slops were we,
  With hearts as heavy as lead;
But “Patience! she’s coming!” said he;
“Courage, boys! wait and see!
  Freedom’s ahead!”…        15
But Tom was little and weak,
  The hard hours shook him;
Hollower grew his cheek,
And when he began to speak
  The coughing took him.        20
And at last the cheery sound
  Of his voice among us ceased,
And we made a purse, all round,
  That he mightn’t starve, at least.
His pain was awful to see,        25
  Yet there, on his poor sick-bed,
“She’s coming, in spite of me!
Courage, and wait!” cried he;
  “Freedom’s ahead!”
Ay, now Tom Dunstan’s cold,        30
  All life seems duller;
There’s a blight on young and old,
And our talk has lost the bold
  Red-republican color.
But we see a figure gray,        35
  And we hear a voice of death,
And the tallow burns all day,
And we stitch and stitch away
  In the thick smoke of our breath;
Ay, while in the dark sit we,        40
  Tom seems to call from the dead—
“She’s coming! she’s coming!” says he;
“Courage, boys! wait and see!
  Freedom’s ahead!”

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