Union Songs

The Eight-Hours System

A poem by Julian Woods©Julian Woods 1881
Music by Sean Hampsey©Sean Hempsey 2013

- [play]

In days of yore, long gone before.
When first the world began.
From morning's light till falling night
Was toiling-time of man.

And fancy brought no better thought
Of pleasure to their breast ;
'Twas night, they said, not day was made
For toiling hands to rest.

But days of light, with knowledge bright,
Illume the world since then ;
Now work and rest and pleasure's zest
Adorn each day for men.

Nor from this day shall riches' sway
Forbid the toilers' mirth.
Nor shall men slave until the grave
Gives rest denied on earth.

For pleasure's hour and learning's power
Should deck all men and lands.
Not only those whose fortune throws
Their work on others' hands.

And well man knows the strength that grows
When steadfast hearts combine ;
So now unfurled through all the world
The Eight-hours banners shine.

Men equal all is now the call
That sounds from East to West ;
So equal time in every clime
For work, and play, and rest.

Eight hours to sleep in midnight deep.
Eight hours of toil a day :
Eight hours to rove in learning's grove.
For pleasure and for play.

JULIAN E. WOODS. Norwood, August 22, 1881


This poem was published in the South Australian Register Thursday 1 September 1881 p.6

The following stanzas have been awarded the
prize of £5 5s. offered by the Eight-hours
Demonstration Committee, and which has been
elected out of thirty-six productions sent in for

Many thanks to Sean Hampsey for his musical setting of the poem. The song is sung by Sean Hampsey, Rory Hampsey, Mary Grech with harmonica by Fr. Brendan Murphy.

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