Union Songs

The Machine

A Poem by Hugh Owen Meredith [published 1911]

The hooter goes - three minutes late
They've cribbed our time again.
Gutter and road and houses straight
Are washed with sooty rain,
And I have lived from eight to eight
A century of pain.

For all day long my body went
The simple motions through;
Each arm shot in and out and bent
The way it has to do;
I almost thought that I was meant
To be an engine too.

But though men clamp us close as leather -
The damned machine and me,
Though foot and eye and hand they tether
As we might lovers be,
And make us dance and sing together,
There is no harmony.

There is no marriage. Steel may clutch
And iron draw to thread
The fibre of a soul and smutch
The glory God has made:
But they have neither sight, nor touch,
Nor hearing: they are dead.

Their hearts are black, their hearts are cold:
They never feel the smart
Of falling sick, of growing old,
Of losing skill and heart.
They're made to do what they are told,
They dream no other part.

The men who own them keep them fine -
They house and cleanse and feed,
And if one cough at all, or whine,
With age, they give good heed
And scrap its body and refine
To serve another need.


This poem comes from the collection 'Weekday Poems' published by Edward Arnold in 1911

More work from Hugh Owen Meredith in this collection

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