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de CLEYRE, Voltairine “Ave et Vale.”
Article published on 17 September 2009
last modification on 25 April 2015

by r-c.
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1901. Selected Works 70–73.

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Comrades, what matter the watch-night tells
That a New Year comes or goes?
What to us are the crashing bells
That clang out the Century’s close?
What to us is the gala dress?
The whirl of the dancing feet?
The glitter and blare in the laughing press,
And din of the merry street?
Do we not know that our brothers die
In the cold and the dark tonight?
Shelterless faces turned toward the sky
Will not see the New Year’s light?
Wandering children, lonely, lost,
Drift away on the human sea,
While the price of their lives in a glass is tossed
And drunk in a revelry!
Ah, know we not in their feasting halls
Where the loud laugh echoes again,
That brick and stone in the mortared walls
Are bones of murdered men?
Slowly murdered! By day and day,
The beauty and strength are reft,
Till the Man is sapped and sucked away,
And a Human Rind is left!
A Human Rind, with old, thin hair,
And old thin voice to pray
For alms in the bitter winter air,—
A knife at his heart always.
And the pure in heart are impure in flesh
For the cost of a little food:
Lo, when the Gleaner of Time shall thresh,
Let these be accounted good.
For these are they who in bitter blame
Eat the bread whose salt is sin;
Whose bosoms are burned with the scarlet shame,
Till their hearts are seared within.
The cowardly jests of a hundred years
Will be thrown where they pass tonight,
Too callous for hate, and too dry for tears,
The saddest of human blight.
Do we forget them, these broken ones,
That our watch tonight is set?
Nay, we smile in the face of the year that comes
Because we do not forget.
We do not forget the tramp on the track,
Thrust out in the wind-swept waste,
The curses of Man upon his back,
And the curse of God in his face.
The stare in the eyes of the buried man
Face down in the fallen mine;
The despair of the child whose bare feet ran
To tread out the rich man’s wine;
The solemn light in the dying gaze
Of the babe at the empty breast,
The wax accusation, the somber glaze
Of its frozen and rigid rest;
They are all in the smile that we turn to the east
To welcome the Century’s dawn;
They are all in our greeting to Night’s high priest,
As we bid the Old Year begone.
Begone and have done, and go down and be dead
Deep drowned in your sea of tears!
We smile as you die, for we wait the red
Morn-gleam of a hundred-years
That shall see the end of the age-old wrong,—
The reapers that have not sown,—
The reapers of men with their sickles strong
Who gather, but have not strown.
For the earth shall be his and the fruits thereof
And to him the corn and wine,
Who labors the hills with an even love
And knows not "thine and mine.
And the silk shall be to the hand that weaves.
The pearl to him who dives,
The home to the builder; and all life’s sheaves
To the builder of human lives.
And none go blind that another see.
Or die that another live;
And none insult with a charity
That is not theirs to give.
For each of his plenty shall freely share
And take at another’s hand:
Equals breathing the Common Air
And toiling the Common Land.
A dream? A vision? Aye, what you will;
Let it be to you as it seems:
Of this Nightmare Real we have our fill;
Tonight is for "pleasant dreams."
Dreams that shall waken the hope that sleeps
And knock at each torpid Heart
Till it beat drum taps, and the blood that creeps
With a lion’s spring upstart!
For who are we to be bound and drowned
In this river of human blood?
Who are we to lie in a swound,
Half sunk in the river mud?
Are we not they who delve and blast
And hammer and build and burn/
Without us not a nail made fast!
Not a wheel in the world should turn!
Must we, the Giant, await the grace
That is dealt by the puny hand
Of him who sits in the feasting place,
While we, his Blind Jest, stand
Between the pillars? Nay, not so:
Aye, if such things were true,
Better were Gaza again, to show
What the giant’s rage may do!
Bet yet not this: it were wiser far
To enter the feasting hall
And say to the Masters, "These things are
Not for you alone, but all."
And this shall be in the Century
that opes on our eyes to-night;
So here’s to the struggle, if it must be,
And to him who fights the fight.
And here’s to the dauntless, jubilant throat
That loud to its Comrade sings,
Till over the earth shrills the mustering note,
And the World Strike’s signal rings.

— Philadelphia, 1st January 1901

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