Wake, London Lads!
Author : William Morris
Few of the public have seen the full text of this song, written by William Morris, author of the "Earthly Paradise". In the days of the late Empire in France, Walter Savage Landor and Mr. A. C. Swinburne supplied one or two political songs. The Poet Laureate also supplied two or three. As it is seldom that any poet nowadays takes interest in public affairs, Mr. Morris's song is worth quoting. It had the distinction of being sung by seven thousand voices at Exeter Hall. As the music halls of London have long resounded with war doggerel in favor of the Turks, such as "Here stands a Poet" and "We don't want to fight",1 it is only fair that a song on the other side–which is not doggerel–should be heard.
- Wake, London Lads, wake, bold and free!
- Arise and fall to work,
- Lest England's glory come to be
- Bond-servant to the Turk!
- Think of your Sires! How oft and oft
- On freedom's field they bled,
- When Cromwell's hand was raised aloft,
- And Kings and scoundrels fled.
- From out the dusk, from out the dark,
- Of old our fathers came,
- Till lovely freedom's glimmering spark
- Broke forth a glorious flame:
- And shall we now praise freedom's dearth
- And rob the years to come,
- And quench upon a brother's hearth
- The fires we lit at home?
- O happy England, if thine hand
- Should forge anew the chain,
- The fetters of a tortured land,
- How were thy glory vain!
- Ourstarving men, our women's tears,
- The graves of those we love,
- Should buy us curses for all years,
- A weight we might not move.
- Yea, through the fog of unjust war
- What thief on us might steal,
- To rob us of the gifts of yore,
- The hope of England's weal?
- The toilsome years have built and earned,
- Great men in hope have died,
- Shall all the lesson be unlearned,
- The treasure scattered wide?
- What! shall we crouch beneath the load,
- And call the labor sweet,
- And dumb and blind go down the road
- Where shame abides our feet?
- Wake, London Lads! the hour draws nigh,
- The bright sun brings the day;
- Cast off the shame, cast off the lie,
- And cast the Turk away!
- "We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do...
- We've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too!
- We've fought the Bear before... and while we're Britons true,
- The Russians shall not have Constantinople"
was the chorus of Macdermott's war song, the origin of the term 'jingoism' meaning bellicose nationalism.
Wake, London Lads!
Written to be sung at the anti-war meeting in Exeter Hall in the Strand on the 16th January 1878. It was set to the tune of The Hardy Norseman's Home of Yore.
South London Press, Saturday 2 February 1878, p. 15
Printed as a leaflet for the event.
Transcription, HTML and notes
Graham Seaman, November 2020
From : Marxists.org.
February 20, 2021 : Wake, London Lads! -- Added.
February 19, 2022 : Wake, London Lads! -- Updated.
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