Richard Le Gallienne

(1866-1947 / England)

The Cry Of The Little Peoples - Poem by Richard Le Gallienne

The Cry of the Little Peoples went up to God in vain;
The Czech and the Pole, and the Finn, and the Schleswig Dane:

We ask but a little portion of the green, ambitious earth;
Only to sow and sing and reap in the land of our birth.

We ask not coaling stations, nor ports in the China seas,
We leave to the big child-nations such rivalries as these.

We have learned the lesson of Time, and we know three things of worth;
Only to sow and sing and reap in the land of our birth.

O leave us little margins, waste ends of land and sea,
A little grass, and a hill or two, and a shadowing tree;

O leave us our little rivers that sweetly catch the sky,
To drive our mills, and to carry our wood, and to ripple by.

Once long ago, as you, with hollow pursuit of fame,
We filled all the shaking world with the sound of our name,

But now are we glad to rest, our battles and boasting done,
Glad just to sow and sing and reap in our share of the sun.

Of this O will ye rob us,--with a foolish mighty hand,
Add with such cruel sorrow, so small a land to your land?

So might a boy rejoice him to conquer a hive of bees,
Overcome ants in battle,--we are scarcely more mighty than these--

So might a cruel heart hear a nightingale singing alone,
And say, 'I am mighty! See how the singing stops with a stone!'

Yea, he were mighty indeed, mighty to crush and to gain;
But the bee and the ant and the bird were the mighty of brain.

And what shall you gain if you take us and bind us and beat us with
thongs,
And drive us to sing underground in a whisper our sad little songs?

Forbid us the very use of our heart's own nursery tongue--
Is this to be strong, ye nations, is this to be strong?

Your vulgar battles to fight, and your grocery conquests to keep,
For this shall we break our hearts, for this shall our old men weep?

What gain in the day of battle--to the Russ, to the German, what gain,
The Czech, and the Pole, and the Finn, and the Schleswig Dane?

The Cry of the Little Peoples goes up to God in vain,
For the world is given over to the cruel sons of Cain;

The hand that would bless us is weak, and the hand that would break us
is strong,
And the power of pity is nought but the power of a song.

The dreams that our fathers dreamed to-day are laughter and dust,
And nothing at all in the world is left for a man to trust;

Let us hope no more, or dream, or prophesy, or pray,
For the iron world no less will crash on its iron way;

Yea! nothing is left but to watch, with a helpless, pitying eye,
The kind old aims for the world, and the kind old fashions die.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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