Union Songs

The Dead Miners

"They Lay As If Asleep."

A Poem by Will Phillips©Will Phillips 1911

They lay as if asleep--
Deep down in the silence there ;
While up above, in the misty grey,
The Bishop uttered his prayer.

They lay as if asleep,
Their grimy toil well done,
While the watchers waited with tear-dimmed eye,
Till the dawn of the morning sun.

They lay as if asleep,
And as they lay, they cried,
Cried in the silence, with voiceless lips,
For themselves and a host beside.

" We toiled for the men of pleasure,
We toiled for the men of wealth ;
And they stole from us our leisure,
They stole from us our health.
They paid us a paltry pittance
For the work they would not do ;
And now we are dead they are laying
The blame, O God, on you.
For the sake of Eternal Justice ;
For the sake of our loved, bereft ;
For the sake of the little children ;
For the sake of our brothers, left ;
O God send thy mighty angel
To burst all the gates of greed,
To strike through the walls of party
To shatter the soulless creed ;
To shred from the sightless eyeballs
The cataract of pride,
That the lords of the world of commerce
May know that for them we died.
May know--while they pile their guineas
In charity's sacred name--
That the dust of the gold they offer
Cannot hide their guilt and shame.
They prey on the need, of the many ;
Their tables groan 'neath the spoil
They have wrung from the hands of the workers
Enslaved by the fetters of toil.
O ! God ! if amid thy lightnings
Thou hast ordered a flash that will tear
The rags of a flimsy custom
From a spirit and lay it bare--
Let it FLASH, as our death flashed on us,
On the souls of these lords in name ;
Let it tear the masks from their faces,
Let it shrivel their robes of shame--
That, bare, at the var of Justice
They may hear the Recorder cry
' Guilty ! the Judge has you
Who sent your brethren to die.' "

They lay as if asleep,
And their voices are hushed for aye,
Will the tragedy of their dying
Usher in a brighter day ?


From the Worker Saturday 29 April 1911 p. 19.

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