Beyond Labor's Veil: The Culture of the Knights of Labor

By Robert E. Weir | Go to book overview
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4
Solidarity, Segmentation, and Sentimentality

The Knights of Labor in Poetry

The following poems are so different in style, sentiment, and content that we must remind ourselves that the same organization produced them. How do we account for such differences? The first poem came out of Chicago and was published in late 1886 when the city's anarchist community was seething with rage in the aftermath of the Haymarket riots. The second was penned by Thomas O'Reilly, a Powderly crony and a staff employee at KOL headquarters, where he worked as a printer for the Order's journal. This is the same Thomas O'Reilly who wrote "The Song of the Proletaire," a composition far more radical in content, and far less sentimental in tone. Thus it is difficult to dismiss these poems merely as the products of different poets writing in different places at different times.


Address to the Statue of Liberty

Hail to thee, statue! humbug gigantic!
Metallic misnomer, protuberance vast.
Sculptural gush! to thee all hail!
Liberty! chained art thou to ocean rock,
With arm aloft, bearing a flameless torch,
Lighting, by subterfuge electric,
A rod of dreary wave . . .

-145-

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