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Corn Law Rhymes by Ebenezer Elliott

Ebenezer Elliott was a Rotherham man who became involved with both Chartism and the anti-Corn-Law campaign. Also he was a local poet. Four examples of his anti-Corn Law rhymes are given here.


Come, Lord Pauper! pay my bill
For radish-tops and fire:
Ploughman Joe, and Weaver Will,
Keep Robert Leech, Esquire.
You say, shares are fairly shared
Between the high and low;
While we starve, this joke runs hard
On Bread-tax'd Will and Joe.

Leech drinks wine, sometimes enough
But them he drinks in style:
Club-feast ale is sinful stuff;
And pewter-plate is vile.
Robert rides, and Robert drives -
His feeders barefoot go;
Will is clamming; bread-tax thrives;
And treadmills clamming Joe.

"Give", of old, the horse-leech cried;
Squire Robert cries, "Give, give!"
How the leeches are belied!
They suck, yet cannot live!
Little souls grow less and less,
And ever downward grow;
"Live and let live," they profess,
And feed on Will and Joe.

Bread-tax murders trade and hope;
Lord Pauper cries, "Well done!"
Bread-tax is not yet a rope
To every rascal's son;
Justice is not done, 'tis said
To Robert Leech and Co.;
Gibbet is not tax on bread -
But Bread-tax gibbets Joe!


Ye coop us up, and tax our bread,
And wonder why we pine;
But ye are fat, and round, and red,
And fill'd with tax-bought wine.
Thus twelve rats starve while three rats thrive,
(Like you on mine and me,)
When fifteen rats are caged alive,
With food for nine and three.

Haste! Havoc's torch begins to glow -
The ending is begun;
Make haste! Destruction thinks ye slow;
Make haste to be undone!
Why are ye call'd "My Lord" and "Squire",
While fed by mine and me,
And wringing food, and clothes and fire,
From bread-tax'd misery?

Make haste, slow rogues! Prohibit trade,
Prohibit honest gain;
Turn all the good that God hath made
To fear, and hate, and pain;
Till beggars all, assassins all,
All cannibals we be,
And death shall have no funeral
From shipless sea to sea


Written for music, at the request of WT. Wood, Esq.

WHEN wilt thou save the people?
Oh, God of mercy! when?
Not kings and lords, but nations!
Not thrones and crowns, but men!
Flowers of thy heart, oh, God, are they!
Let them not pass, like weeds, away!
Their heritage a sunless day!
God ! save the people!

Shall crime bring crime for ever,
Strength aiding still the strong?
Is it thy will, oh, Father,
That man shall toil for wrong?
"No!" say thy mountains; "No!" thy skies
"Man's clouded sun shall brightly rise,
And songs be heard, instead of sighs."
God, save the people!

When wilt thou save the people?
Oh, God of Mercy! when?
The people, Lord, the people !
Not thrones and crowns, but men!
God! save the people! thine they are,
Thy children, as thy angels fair:
Save them from bondage, and despair !
God, save the people ! *

* And who are the people? They are all those persons who, by honestly maintaining themselves, and, perhaps earning a surplus, - or by honestly living on the precious earnings and savings of others - prove their right to govern the community through their representatives. I deny that any human being is born possessed of a right to vote for members of parliament. All men, and all women. are born possessed of the right to acquire the power of doing so; just as all boys are born possessed of the right to acquire the power of using edgetools. But no boy is born possessed of a right to cut even his own fingers; and before any person meddle with mine I would have him understand the nature of edgetools. The right to vote for members of parliament is founded on property and knowledge, that property and knowledge which every self-sustained person possesses, in the labour, or skill, which enables him, or her, to live; and taxation and representation ought to be co-extensive, because Taxes are paid by self-sustained persons alone.




AVENGE the plunder'd poor, oh Lord! !
But not with fire, but not with sword,
Not as at Peterloo they died,
Beneath the hoofs of coward pride.
Avenge our rags our chains, our sighs,
The famine in our children's eyes !
But not with sword--no, not with fire
Chastise Thou Britain's locustry!
Lord, let them feel thy heavier ire ;
Whip them, oh Lord ! with poverty !
Then, cold in soul as coffin'd dust,
Their hearts as tearless, dead, and dry,
Let them in outraged mercy trust,
And find that mercy they deny !

Yon cotton-prince, at Peterloo,
Found easy work, and glory, too:
" Corn laws," quoth he " make labour cheap,
And famine from our trenchers keep.''
He sees but wealth in want and woe ,
Men starve, he owns, arid justly so ;
But if they marry and get brats,
Must he provide their shirts and hats ?
Lord fill l his ledger with bad debts !
Let him be learned in gazettes!

A beadle's son, a lawyer's sire,
And born the favourite of a Squire,
STRUT hath town-acres three or four,
Two taverns, and can license more ;
That street is his, Blue Jobber's Row :
He feels no want, he sees no woe ;
But, having jobb'd another groat,
Pays Corn-law two-pence, as he ought,
And still is purchased with his own,
Although his god is half-a-crown.
Talk not to him of wants and woes ;
He hates the fool who names his foes.
Lord, let his hollow rental fail,
And lice instruct him in a jail,
When Tories, to diminish votes,
For liberal laws strain all their throats,
Untaxing deals, too dear to buy,
And bricks, and laths,-but tell not why

Yon prigling, territorial grown,
Sublimely takes his Satrap-stride
On two vast acres, call'd his own, When Tories, to dimindish pride.
" Cheap corn is ruin," he can show ;
" Let rents be raised, Sir !" Are they low ? "
They are-despite your liberal cant,
And all the pack of growling hounds :
The poor, Sir, are extravagant :
These eight roods cost five hundred pounds !"
He earns with ease his daily bread ;
But want still quits his door unfed,
Let thrice five sons and daughters, Lord,
Surround this childless husband's board,
Till wisdom from his trencher preach,
And back and belly learn and teach.

Yon yeoman used, in better days,
When " D-n the French" was pray'r and praise,
To teach us thrice a year or so,
From Tory-rule what blessings flow :
He backed his war-horse through the panes
Of quiet people who had brains ;
And when pale Freedom's champions fell,
He three-times-three's his carriage yell,
Till awe-struck fiends turn'd pale in hell.
For wool-tax now, and parish pay,
He prays in curses every day,
And bans the liberals and the peace.
Lord, let him take his farm on lease !
That he may feel the growing pain
Which they endure who toil in vain;
The sinking soul, the dark distress,
The sting of this world's hopelessness;
Till down his cheek of lemon-peel
A selfish tear, at least may steal,
And wondering sceptics gladly own
His heart is human, though of bone !

See, how yon Thane of Corn Laws scowls
Picking our pockets, while he growls !
Lord, shall his law, untaxing rent,
Become his order's monument ?
A beacon, bidding future times,
Avoid his fate, abhor his crimes ?
When Ruin yells, and Havock goads,
And long-prepared, his mine explodes,
Oh, may the wretch outlive the shock
Of shaken earth, and shatter'd rock !
Whip him, O Lord ! with want and woe.
Lord, teach him what his victims know !
And when, with toil and trouble worn,
He rests beneath a blasted thorn,
Let him behold, with grief and ire,
While sets the sun in pomp of fire,
The palace of his patriot sire,
Who fed the poor, that feed the proud,
And plunder'd not the toiling crowd !
But if, when chastening years are past,
His sorrows try to smile at last,
And in his plot of garden-ground,
The wire-edged cottage flower be found,
Or rose, or pink, whose glowing rays
Remind him of departed days ;
Let no mean worm's despotic power
Envy that fallen man his flower!
O let no little tyrant dare
To rend the hope of his despair,
The solace of his closing day,
His friend - his garden-plot away!
Nor upstart pride, with scornful tone,
The poor man's claim to taste disown,
And turn affronted tears to stone!

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