Union Songs

I Am the Man

A Poem by Julian Stuart©Julian Stuart 1908

I am deformed by labor,
I am the working man,
Cursing the fate that holds me,
A dull-browed Caliban.
Gnarled are my limbs and twisted,
Seamed is my flesh and scarred,
And the work I do
My whole life through
Is a burden that grinds me hard.

Born with a mark upon me,
Mark of the dull brown soil,
For me the world holds nothing
But to eat and sleep and toil,
To feel man's primal impulse,
Brute-like to seize a mate
That his kind may breed
To fill the need
For helots to work and wait.

I dig the gold for others
In dangerous mines and deep,
I dive for the pearls of ocean
But never a gem I keep.
A cross bears down my shoulders,
Shoulders that droop and ache,
But where risks are great
And where perils wait,
It is mine those risks to take.

Where the lust of battle rages,
I train and serve each gun,
Yet am I still the helot,
Though the fields be lost or won.
I do not share the glory,
I may not reap the spoil,
But beneath the dead, where the grass is red,
My blood bedews the soil.

I am so patient - patient Through
age-long centuries,
When blows the hot sirocco
Or when frigid winters freeze.
I am ox-like and humble,
I strive in rain or shine,
And when old and sore, that I toil no more,
I "die and make no sign".

I see dumb beasts around me
Valued and housed and fed,
But in a ragged shanty
Are my children born and bred.
Then through my mental madness
Filters a gleam of sense,
That we might move from the helot's groove
(But our helots' souls are dense)

Yet though I grope benighted
Upon uncharted ways,
The fires of revolution
At times I set ablaze.
When hate, that long has smouldered,
By sullen blasts is blown,
When the kings that quake
And the thrones that shake,
To the ravenous flames are thrown;
When the towers and spires
Are licked by fires,
Then shall I have mine own.

I am the man of muscle,
Stronger than king or priest,
But though my tasks are greatest
My recompense is least.
But if my dull brain quickened
I would know and understand
That there is no earthly treasure,
No prize on sea or land
From zone to zone but could be mine own,
Held by my strong right hand.


Julian Stuart wrote a good deal of verse, One of the most prominent literary figures of the early twentieth century goldfields, Stuart had come to Western Australia with the reputation of having been gaoled in the Queensland shearers' strikes of the 1890s. He became editor of the Westralian Worker and, from 1906 to 1908, a member of parliament (MLA for Leonora). In 1911 the Sun newspaper published this verse of his.

More work by Julian Stuart in this collection

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