01 August 2007

Stanzas for the First of August

'All and every the Persons who on the said first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four shall be holden in Slavery within any such British Colony as aforesaid shall upon and from and after the said first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four become and be to all Intents and Purposes free and discharged of and from all Manner of Slavery, and shall be absolutely and for ever manumitted; and that the Children thereafter to be born to any such Persons, and the Offpring of such Children shall in like Manner be free from their Birth; and that from, and after the said first Day of August One thousand eight hundred and thirty-four Slavery shall be and is hereby utterly and for ever abolished and declared unlawful throughout the British Colonies, Plantations, and Possessions Abroad.' The Slavery Abolition Act 1833

every river runs to an ending place
we can't be sure that we know every turn
we praise the water praise the river's grace
and wonder if we'll ever truly learn

the honest tale of all that it has seen
just how the fields that rim it came to be
the names of all the people who have been
linked to this spot the names of every tree

that's cast its leaves into the stream's long flow
tales that will bring back all the childish joy
and tales for those who truly want to know
of what hard metals they are the alloy

so to begin the fisher folk who came
before the records later ones would write
have left us only here and there a name
and their own visages long passed from sight

and after those who came to turn the land
from green to gold and who brought other folk
making them work and taking from their hand
all of the glory leaving them the yoke

all of their lives have flowed into the dirt
and from the dirt down to the living stream
it's to their living that we must advert
to all their living and to their best dream

the truth is that i carry the strong taint
of both their angers both their frantic rages
history's not a matter for the faint
and honesty rewards us with strange wages

let it be said for those who did the work
it was a sordid task not honest toil
but under the swift lash they did not shirk
blood may flow silent but it still can boil

for boil it did and sugar turned to fire
for one small principle they rose to fight
and though forced down into the fertile mire
knew that each killing blow they struck was right

it does not matter that they rose to die
that every struggle lead only to death
they sought for liberty under the blue sky
and for that sacred thing gave their last breath

a century two hundred years go by
and others listen others hear the call
far different figures join them to defy
and stand with them before that final wall

there isn't much that we now here can say
about the long years of that angry fight
but every thing we hold precious today
is a grave answer to that desperate plight

time may do nothing but free folk can act
to spread their freedom to the ones in pain
can turn their hopes into a shining fact
can bring redemption with the morning rain

knowing that folk who fight and who demand
to have their voices and their anger heard
should have the power to move over the land
and have an equal and an honest word

and so it happened so came that great day
when every chain they shattered and they broke
the mighty dragon ceased to have its way
and freedom came at midnight's happy stroke

the river runs shining and dark to sea
it knows the tale and has no cause to mourn
the ones who work its banks know they are free
and how that freedom from great pain was torn

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