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de CLEYRE, Voltairine. "John P. Altgeld"
A Poem
Article published on 14 September 2009
last modification on 25 April 2015

by r-c.
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This poem, written in June 1893, first appeared in Open Court 7 (1893) p.3782. It was reprinted in The Worm Turns

(After an incarceration of seven long years in Joliet State Prison for
an act of which they were entirely innocent, namely, the throwing of
the Haymarket bomb, in Chicago, May 4, 1886, Oscar Neebe, Michael
Schwab, and Samuel Fielden were liberated by Governor Altgeld, who
thus sacrificed his political career to an act of justice. Honor him.)

THERE was a tableau ! Liberty’s clear light
Shone never on a braver scene than that.
Here was a prison, there a man who sat
High in the halls of state! Beyond, the might
Of ignorance and mobs, whose hireling press
Yells at their bidding like the slaver’s hounds,
Ready with coarse caprice to curse or bless,
To make or unmake rulers!—Lo, there sounds
A grating of the doors! And three poor men,
Helpless and hated, having naught to give,
Come from their long-sealed tomb, look up, and live,
And thank this man that they are free again.
And he—to all the world this man dares say,
" Curse as you will! I have been just this day."

PHILADELPHIA, June, 1893.


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