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Labor

From The Seattle Star, September 1, 1913. By Berton Braley.

Out of chaos, out of murk
I arose and did my work
While the ages changed and sped
I was toiling for my bread
Underneath my sturdy blows
Forests fell and cities rose
And the hard, reluctant soil
Blossomed richly from my toil.
Palaces and temples grand
Wrought I with my cunning hand.
Rich indeed was my reward—
Stunted soul, and body scarred
With the marks of scourge and rod
I, the tiller of the sod
From the cradle to the grave
Shambled through the world—a slave!
Crushed and trampled, beaten, cursed,
Serving best, but served the worst,
Starved and cheated, gouged and spoiled
Still I builded, still I toiled
Undernourished, underpaid
In the world myself had made.

Up from slavery I rise,
Dreams and wonder in my eyes,
After brutal ages past
Coming to my own at last
I was slave—but I am free!
I was blind—but I can see!
I, the builder, I the maker,
I, the calm tradition-breaker,
Slave and serf and clod no longer,
Know my strength—and who is stronger?
I am done with ancient frauds,
Ancient lies and ancient gods—
All that sham is overthrown,
I shall take and keep my own
Unimpassioned, unafraid,
Master of the World I’ve made!

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