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Today we are featuring a poem from Arturo Giovannitti, a beloved Italian-American poet who is credited with illustrating the plight of the textile worker strike in 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts. After addressing the crowd of strikers, Giovannitti was soon after arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder for the death of a worker who was struck by a police bullet during the strike. Of course Giovannitti was never in possession of a police revolver and was soon acquitted of the charge.
The textile mill strikes were one of the first strikes and conflicts with the establishment for the plight of the worker and labor rights. Italian-American men, women and their children worked in the Lawrence, Massachusetts textile mills under horrendous conditions. The Italian-American worker’s fight for labor rights at the textile mill was the spark the country needed for greater protests and reform.
THE SERMON ON THE COMMON
THEN it came to pass that the people, having
heard that he had come, assembled on the
Common to listen unto his words.
And they came from all the parts of the earth, the
Syrians and the Armenians, the Thracians
and the Tartars, the Jews, the Greeks and the
Romans, the Iberians and the Gauls and the
Angles and Huns and the Hibernians and
Scythians, even from the deserts of sands to
the deserts of ice, they came to listen unto
And he, seeing the multitudes, opened his mouth,
and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the strong in freedom of spirit: for
theirs is the kingdom of the earth.
Blessed are they that mourn their martyred
dead: for they shall avenge them upon their
murderers and be comforted.
Blessed are the rebels: for they shall reconquer
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
equality: for they shall eat the fruit of their
Blessed are the strong: for they shall not taste
the bitterness of pity.
Blessed are the sincere in heart: for they shall
Blesed are they that do battle against wrong:
for they shall be called the children of Liberty.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for equal
ity s sake: for theirs is the glory of the broth
erhood of man.
Blessed are ye when the scribes of the press shall
revile you, and the doctors of the law, poli
ticians, policemen, judges and priests shall
call you criminals, thieves and murderers and
shall say all manner of evil against you false
ly, for the sake of Justice.
Rejoice, then, and be exceedingly glad; for so
they persecuted, reviled, cursed, chained,
jailed, poisoned, hanged, crucified, burned,
beheaded and shot all the seers, the apostles
and the warriors of humanity that were be
fore you, for the sake of freedom.
Ye are the power of the earth, the foundations
of society, the thinkers and the doers of all
things good and all things fair and useful, the
makers and dispensers of all the bounties and
the joys and the happiness of the world, and
if ye fold your mighty arms, all the life of
the world stands still and death hovers on the
darkened abodes of man.
Ye are the light of the world. There was dark
ness in all the ages when the torch of your
will did not blaze forth, and the past and the
future are full of the radiance that cometh
from your eyes.
Ye are eternal, even as your father, labor, is eter
nal, and no power of time and dissolution can
prevail against you.
Ages have come and gone, kingdoms and powers
and dynasties have risen and fallen, old glo
ries and ancient wisdoms have been turned
into dust, heroes and sages have been forgot
ten and many a mighty and fearsome god has
been hurled into the lightless chasms of ob
But ye, Plebs, Populace, People, Rabble, Mob,
Proletariat, live and abide forever.
# # *
Think not that I am come to destroy the law: I
am not come to destroy, but to fulfil through
you what the prophets of mankind have pre
saged from the beginning.
For verily I say unto you, While man lives and
labors, nothing can destroy the eternal law
of progress which after each advancing step
bids him further.
Therefore, say not unto yourselves, even as the
priests and scribes and doctors of the law and
fools and hypocrites say, This is the goal
which was destined unto us and no further
shall we go.
For even if there be before you the uplifted
arms of terror and the smoking altars of mur
der enshrined in a gaunt temple of gibbets
and fierce with shrieks of curses, ye must pass
For your feet are like the unrolling of the end
less scrolls of time, not even night and
silence and death can stop their march for
ward and upward, ever to a farther and loftier
And, lo, ye shall never arrive because never shall
ye cease going.
Whosoever, therefore, shall break one jot or one
tittle of this law shall be called the least in
the kingdom of man, but whosoever shall do
and teach it, the same shall be called great in
the kingdom of man.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of all
times who toil not but do live of your toil,
Thou shalt not rebel against thy master.
But I say unto you that whosoever soweth the
seeds of patience the same shall reap the har
vest of shame.
They said unto you, Question not the right of
your masters to reign over you and command
you. They shall have your sweat and your
tears, aye, and even your blood and your life,
and ye shall serve them in reverence and awe,
for their power upon you is of God.
And again they said unto you, Give your masters
the labor of your hands and the worship of
your hearts, give them the fruits of your or
chards, the grains of your fields, the flowers
of your gardens and all things made by the
labor of your hands and by the thought of
your brain, and withhold not aught from
your masters, lest your masters law and the
curse of your masters God be upon you.
And again they said unto you, Bend your knees
and worship your chains, kiss the whip that
lashes you, bless the heel that crushes you,
revere the yoke that weighs upon your neck,
bury your forehead in the dirt whence ye
came and whither ye shall return.
Do not cry, do not complain do not grumble,
do not think, do not hope,
Be humble, resigned, patient, submissive, lowly
and prone even as a beast of burden, lest ye
have the gaol in this life and gehenna in the
life to come.
And again they said unto you, Resist not evil,
for all spirit of disobedience and unsubmis-
sion issueth from the enemy of peace. There
fore if your masters, or your masters serv-
ants smite you on the right cheek, turn unto
them the other also, and if they take away
from you the heritage of your fathers, give
unto them also the birthright of your chil-
All this and more than this they said unto you
before I came, but now that I am come, a new
evangel shall be proclaimed unto you, that
your souls may be renovated and purified in
the fire of the new salvation which is not
peace but war.
Therefore I say unto you, Banish fear from your
hearts, dispel the mists of ignorance from
your minds, arm your yearning with your
strength, your vision with your will, and
open your eyes and behold.
Do not moan, do not submit, do not kneel, do
not pray, do not wait.
Think, dare, do, rebel, fight ARISE!
It is not true that ye are condemned to serve and
suffer in shame forever;
It is not true that injustice, iniquity, hunger, mis-
ery, abjection, depravity, hatred, theft, mur
der and fratricide are eternal ;
There is no destiny that the will of man cannot
There are no chains of iron that other iron can
There is nothing that the power of your arms,
lighted by the power of your mind, cannot
transform and reconstruct and remake.
Arise, then, ye men of the plough and the ham-
mer, the helm and the lever, and send forth
to the four winds of the earth your new proc-
lamation of freedom which shall be the last
and shall abide forevermore.
Through you, through your united, almighty
strength, order shall become equity, law shall
become liberty, duty shall become love and
religion shall become truth.
Through you the man-beast shall die and the man
Through you the dark, bloody chronicles of the
brute shall cease and the story of man shall
Through you, by the power of your brain and
All the predictions of the prophets,
All the wisdom of the sages,
All the dreams of the poets,
All the hopes of the heroes,
All the visions of the martyrs,
All the prayers of the saints,
All the crushed, tortured, strangled, maimed and
murdered ideals of the ages, and all the glori
ous destinies of mankind shall become a tri
umphant and everlasting reality in the name
of labor and bread and love, the great three
fold truth forever.
And lo and behold, my brothers, this shall be
called the revolution.
* * *
Thus spake the man to the assembled multitude
that had come from all the lands, over all the
waters of the earth, and they listened unto
him and received his words, and the dawn
began to rise in their hearts, and they praised
the announcer with the cheers of their mouths
and they blessed him with the tears of their
But when the multitude dispersed to return to
their labors and to their strifes, the dark fig
ures that make darker the shadows of the
night held council against the truth-bearer for
the words that he had spoken.
And the scribe said, Verily, he is a law-breaker.
And the money changer said, Aye, and he is a
And the judge said, He is a wrong-doer.
And the sage said, He is possessed of a devil.
And the chronicler said, He is a primitive sinner.
And the wise man said, He is a profligate.
And the priest said, He is a blasphemer.
And they all croaked in chorus, He is an enemy of
society, of civilization, of religion and man
kind. Law and order must be upheld and our
sacred institutions must be preserved. We
must do away with him.
And they did away with him. But nobody knows
to this day whether they sent him to prison
or to Parliament.
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