Pro-Liberty Poetry

by James Russell Lowell

When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart.

So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;–
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong,
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.

Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion’s sea;
Not an ear in court or market for the low foreboding cry
Of those Crises, God’s stern winnowers, from whose feet earth’s chaff must fly;
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by.

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,–
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great.
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din.
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,–
‘They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.’

Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,
Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;–
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?

Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

Count me o’er earth’s chosen heroes,–they were souls that stood alone,
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
By one man’s plain truth to manhood and to God’s supreme design.

By the light of burning heretics Christ’s bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.

For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes into History’s golden urn.

‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers’ graves,
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;–
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future that make Plymouth Rock sublime?

They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past’s;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free.
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.

They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-lit altar-fires;
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away
To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to-day?

New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-rusted key.

By Randolph Bourne

Youth is the incarnation of reason pitted against the rigidity of
tradition. Youth puts the remorseless questions to everything that is
old and established-Why? What is this thing good for? And when it
gets the mumbled, evasive answers of the defenders it applies its
own fresh, clean spirit of reason to institutions, customs, and ideas,
and finding them stupid, inane, or poisonous, turns instinctively to
overthrow them and build in their place the things with which its
visions teem…

Youth is the leaven that keeps all these questioning, testing
attitudes fermenting in the world. If it were not for this troublesome
activity of youth, with its hatred of sophisms and glosses, its
insistence on things as they are, society would die from sheer decay.
It is the policy of the older generation as it gets adjusted to the
world to hide away the unpleasant things where it can, or preserve a
conspiracy of silence and an elaborate pretense that they do not
exist. But meanwhile the sores go on festering, just the same. Youth
is the drastic antiseptic… It drags skeletons from closets and insists
that they be explained. No wonder the older generation fears and
distrusts the younger. Youth is the avenging Nemesis on its trail…
Our elders are always optimistic in their views of the present,
pessimistic in their views of the future; youth is pessimistic toward
the present and gloriously hopeful for the future. And it is this hope
which is the lever of progress–one might say, the only lever of

The secret of life is then that this fine youthful spirit shall never
be lost. Out of the turbulence of youth should come this fine
precipitate–a sane, strong, aggressive spirit of daring and doing. It
must be a flexible, growing spirit, with a hospitality to new ideas,
and a keen insight into experience. To keep one’s reactions warm
and true is to have found the secret of perpetual youth, and
perpetual youth is salvation.

Tom Smith and His Incredible Bread Machine by R.W. Grant

Part I

This is the legend of a man whose name
Was a household word: a man whose fame
Burst on the world like an atom bomb.
Smith was his last name; first name: Tom.
The argument goes on today.
“He was a villain,” some will say.
“No! A hero!” others declare.
Or was he both? Well, I despair;
The fight will last ’til kingdom come;
Was Smith a hero? Or was Smith a bum?
So, listen to the story and it’s up to you
To decide for yourself as to which is true!

Now, Smith, an inventor, had specialized
In toys. So people were surprised
When they found that he instead
Of making toys, was baking bread!
The news was flashed by CBS
Of his incredible success.
Then NBC jumped in in force,
Followed by the Times, of course.
The reason for their rapt attention,
The nature of his new invention,
The way to make bread he’d conceived
Cost less than people could believe!
And not just make it! This device
Could in addition wrap and slice!
The price per loaf, one loaf or many:
The miniscule sum of under one penny!

Can you imagine what this meant?
Can you comprehend the consequent?
The first time yet the world well fed!
And all because of Tom Smith’s bread!
Not the last to see the repercussions
Were the Red Chinese, and, of course, the Russians,
For Capitalist bread in such array

Threw the whole red block into black dismay!
Nonetheless, the world soon found
That bread was plentiful the world around.
Thanks to Smith and all that bread,
A grateful world was at last well fed!

But isn’t it a wondrous thing
How quickly fame is flown?
Smith, the hero of today
Tomorrow, scarcely known!
Yes, the fickle years passed by.
Smith was a billionaire.

But Smith himself was now forgot,
Though bread was everywhere.
People, asked from where it came,
Would very seldom know.

They would simply eat and ask,
‘Was not it always so?”

However, Smith cared not a bit,
For millions ate his bread,
And “Everything is fine,” thought he.
“I’m rich and they are fed!”

Everything was fine, he thought?
He reckoned not with fate.
Note the sequence of events
Starting on the date
On which inflation took its toll,
And to a slight extent,
The price on every loaf increased:
It went to one full cent!

A sharp reaction quickly came.
People were concerned.
White House aide expressed dismay.
Then the nation learned
That Russia lodged a sharp protest.
India did the same.
“Exploitation of the Poor!”
Yet, who was there to blame?

And though the clamor ebbed and flowed,
All that Tom would say
Was that it was but foolish talk.
Which soon would die away.
And it appeared that he was right.
Though on and on it ran,
The argument went ’round and ’round
But stopped where it began.

There it stopped, and people cried,
“For heaven’s sake, we can’t decide!
It’s relative! Beyond dispute,
There’s no such thing as ‘absolute’!
And though we try with all our might,
Since nothing’s ever black or white,
All that we can finally say is
‘Everything one shade of grey is’!”
So people cried out, “Give us light!
We can’t tell what’s wrong from right!”

To comprehend confusion,
We seek wisdom at its source.
To whom, then did the people turn?
The Intellectuals, of course!

And what could be a better time
For them to take the lead,
Than at their International Conference
On Inhumanity and Greed.
For at this weighty conference,
Once each year we face
The moral conscience of the world—
Concentrated in one place.

At that mighty conference were
A thousand, more or less,
Of intellectuals and bureaucrats,
And those who write the press.
And from Yale and Harvard
The professors; all aware
The fate of Smith would now be known.
Excitement filled the air!

“The time has come,” the chairman said
“To speak of many things:
Of duty, bread and selfishness,
And the evil that it brings.
For, speaking thus we can amend
That irony of fate
That gives to unenlightened minds
The power to create.

“Since reason tells us that it can’t,
Therefore let us start
Not by thinking with the mind,
But only with the heart!
Since we believe in people, then,”
At last the chairman said,
‘We must meet our obligation
To see that they are fed!”

And so it went, one by one,
Denouncing private greed;
Denouncing those who’d profit thus
From other people’s need!

Then, suddenly each breath was held,
For there was none more wise
Than the nation’s foremost Pundit
Who now rose to summarize:

“My friends,” he said, (they all exhaled)
‘We see in these events
The flouting of the Higher Law—
And its consequence.
We must again remind ourselves
Just why mankind is cursed:
Because we fail to realize
Society comes first!

“Smith placed himself above the group
To profit from his brothers.
He failed to see the Greater Good,
Is Service, friends, to Others!”

With boldness and with vision, then,
They ratified the motion
To dedicate to all mankind
Smith’s bread-and their devotion!
The conference finally ended.
It had been a huge success.
The intellectuals had spoken.
Now others did the rest.

The professors joined in all the fuss,
And one was heard to lecture thus:
(For clarity, he spoke in terms
Of Mother Nature, birds and worms):

“That early birds should get the worm
Is clearly quite unfair.
Wouldn’t it much nicer be
If all of them would share?
But selfishness and private greed
Seem part of nature’s plan,
Which Mother Nature has decreed
For bird. But also Man?
The system which I question now,
As you are well aware,
(I’m sure you’ve heard the term before
Is Business, Laissez-Faire!

“So students, let me finally say
That we must find a nobler way.
So, let us fix the race that all
May finish side-by-side;
The playing field forever flat,
The score forever tied.
To achieve this end, of course,
We turn to government-and force.
So, if we have to bring Smith do
As indeed we should,
I’m sure you will agree with me,
It’s for the Greater Good!”

Comments in the nation’s press
Now scorned Smith and his plunder:
‘What right had he to get so rich
On other people’s hunger?”
A prize cartoon depicted Smith
With fat and drooping jowls
Snatching bread from hungry babes,
Indifferent to their howls.

One night, a TV star cried out,
“Forgive me if I stumble,
But I don’t think, I kid you not,
That Smith is very humble!”
Growing bolder, he leaped up,
(Silencing the cheers)
“Humility!” he cried to all—
And then collapsed in tears!

The clamor rises all about;
Now hear the politician shout:
‘What’s Smith done, so rich to be?
Why should Smith have more than thee?
So, down with Smith and all his greed;
I’ll protect your right to need!”

Then Tom found to his dismay
That certain businessmen would say,
”The people now should realize
It’s time to cut Smith down to size,
For he’s betrayed his public trust
(And taken all that bread from us!)”

Well, since the Public does come first,
It could not be denied
That in matters such as this,
The public must decide.
So, SEC became concerned,
And told the press what it had learned:
“It’s obvious that he’s guilty
—Of what we’re not aware—
Though actually and factually
We’re sure there’s something there!”

And Antitrust now took a hand.
Of course it was appalled
At what it found was going on.
The “bread trust” it was called.

“Smith has too much crust,”
they said. “A deplorable condition
That Robber Barons profit thus
From cutthroat competition!”
This was getting serious!
So Smith felt that he must
Have a friendly interview
With SEC and ‘Trust.
So, hat in hand, he went to them.
They’d surely been misled;
No rule of law had he defied.
But then their lawyer said:

“The rule of law, in complex times,
Has proved itself deficient.
We much prefer the rule of men.
It’s vastly more efficient.
“So, nutshell-wise, the way it is,
The law is what we say it is!
“So, let me state the present rules,”
The lawyer then went on,
“These very simple guidelines
You can rely upon:
You’re gouging on your prices
If you charge more than the rest.
But it’s unfair competition
If you think you can charge less!

“A second point that we would make,
To help avoid confusion:
Don’t try to charge the same amount,
For that would be collusion!
”You must compete—but not too much.
For if you do, you see,
Then the market would be yours—
And that’s monopoly!
Oh, don’t dare monopolize!
We’d raise an awful fuss,
For that’s the greatest crime of all!
(Unless it’s done by us!)”

“I think I understand,” said Tom.
“And yet, before I go,
How does one get a job like yours?
I’d really like to know!”

The lawyer rose then with a smile;
“I’m glad you asked,” said he.
“I’ll tell you how I got my start
And how it came to be.”
(His secretaries gathered ’round
As their boss did thus expound.)
‘When I was a lad going off to school,
I was always guided by this golden rule:
Let others take the lead in things, for heaven’s sake,
So if things go wrong-why, then it’s their mistake!”
(So if things go wrong-why, then it’s their mistake!)

“Following this precept it came to pass
I became the president of my senior class.
Then on to college where my profs extolled
The very same theory from the very same mold!”
(The very same theory from the very same mold!)
“Let others take the chances, and I would go along.
Then I would let them know where they all went wrong!
So successful was my system that then indeed,
I was voted most likely in my class to succeed!”
(He was voted most likely in his class to succeed!)

“Then out into the world I went, along with all the rest,
Where I put my golden rule to the ultimate test.
I avoided all of commerce at whatever the cost—
And because I never ventured, then I also never lost!”
(And because he never ventured, then he also never lost!)
‘With this unblemished record then, I quickly caught the eye
Of some influential people ‘mongst the powers on high.

And so these many years among the mighty I have sat,
Having found my niche as a bureaucrat!”
(Having found his niche as a bureaucrat’)
“To be a merchant prince has never been my goal,
For I’m qualified to play a more important role:
Since I’ve never failed in business, this of course assures
That I’m qualified beyond dispute to now run yours!’
(That he’s qualified beyond dispute to now run yours!)
“Thanks; that clears it up,” said Tom.
The lawyer said, “I’m glad!
We try to serve the public good.
We’re really not so bad!
“Now, in disposing of this case,
If you wish to know just how,
Go up to the seventh floor;
We’re finalizing now!”
So, Tom went to the conference room
Up on the seventh floor.
He raised his hand, about to knock,
He raised it—but no more—
For what he overheard within
Kept him outside the door!
A sentence here, a sentence there—
Every other word—
He couldn’t make it out (he hoped),
For this is what he heard:
“Mumble, mumble, let’s not fumble!
Mumble, mumble, what’s the charge?
Grumble, grumble, he’s not humble?
Private greed? Or good of all?
“Public Interest, Rah! Rah! Rah!
Business, Business, Bah! Bah! Bah!
“Say, now this now we confess
That now this now is a mess!
Well now, what now do we guess?
Discharge? Which charge would be best?

“How ’bout ‘Greed and Selfishness’?
Oh, wouldn’t that be fun?
It’s vague enough to trip him up
No matter what he’s done!
‘We don’t produce or build a thing!
But before we’re through,
We allow that now we’ll show Smith how
We handle those who do!

‘We serve the public interest;
We make up our own laws;
Oh, golly gee, how selflessly
We serve the public cause!
“For we’re the ones who make the rules
At ‘Trust and SEC,
So bye and bye we’ll get that guy;
Now, what charge will it be?
“Price too high? Or price too low?
Now, which charge will we make?
Well, we’re not loath to charging both
When public good’s at stake!

“But can we go one better?
How ’bout monopoly?
No muss, no fuss, oh clever us!
Right-O! Let’s charge all three!

“But why stop here? We have one more!
Insider Trading! Number four!
We’ve not troubled to define
This crime in any way so,
This allows the courts to find
Him guilty ’cause we say so!”

So, that was the indictment.
Smith’s trial soon began.
It was a cause célèbre
Which was followed’ cross the land.
In his defense Tom only said,
“I’m rich, but all of you are fed!
Is that bargain so unjust
That I should now be punished thus?”

Tom fought it hard all the way.
But it didn’t help him win.
The jury took but half an hour
To bring this verdict in:
“Guilty! Guilty! We agree!
He’s guilty of this plunder!
He had no right to get so rich
On other people’s hunger!”
“Five years in jail!” the judge then said.
“You’re lucky it’s not worse!
Robber Barons must be taught
Society Comes First!
As flies to wanton boys,” he leered,
“Are we to men like these!
They exploit us for their sport!
Exploit us as they please!”

The sentence seemed a bit severe,
But mercy was extended.
In deference to his mother’s pleas,
One year was suspended.

And what about the Bread Machine?
Tom Smith’s little friend?
Broken up and sold for scrap.
Some win. Some lose. The end.


Now, bread is baked by government.
And as might be expected,
Everything is well controlled—
The public well protected.
True, loaves cost ten dollars each.
But our leaders do their best.
The selling price is half a cent.
Taxes pay the rest!

Capitol Air
by Allan Ginsberg (1926-1997)

I don’t like the government where I live
I don’t like dictatorship of the Rich
I don’t like bureaucrats telling me what to eat
I don’t like Police dogs sniffing round my feet

I don’t like Communist censorship of my books
I don’t like Marxists complaining about my looks
I don’t like Castro insulting members of my sex
Leftists insisting we got the mystic Fix

L don’t like capitalists selling me gasoline Coke
Multinationals burning Amazon Trees to smoke
Big Corporation takeover media mind
I don’t like the Top-bananas that’re robbing Guatemala banks blind

I don’t like K.G.B. Gulag concentration camps
I don’t like the Maiosts’ Cambodian Death Dance
15 Million were killed by Stalin Secretary of Terror
He has killed our old Red Revolution for ever

I don’t like Anarchists screaming Love Is Free
I don’t like the C.I.A. they killed John Kennedy
Paranoiac tanks sit in Prague and Hungary
But I don’t like counterrevolution paid for by the C.I.A.

Tyranny in Turkey or Korea Nineteen Eighty
I don’t like Right Wing Death Squad Democracy
Police State Iran Nicaragua yesterday
Laissez-faire please Government keep your secret police offa me

I don’t like Nationalist Supremacy White or Black
I don’t like Narcs & Mafia marketing Smack
The Generals bulling Congress in his tweed vest
The President building up his Arimies in the East & West

I don’t like Argentine police Jail torture Truths
Government terrorist takeover Salvador news
I don’t like Zionists acting Nazi Storm Troop
Palestine Liberation cooking Israel into Moslem soup

I don’t like the Crown’s Official Secrets Act
You can get away with murder in the Government that’s a fact
Security cops teargassing radical kids
In Switzerland or Czechoslovakia God Forbids

In America it’s Attica in Russia it’s Lubianka Wall
In China if you disappear you wouldn’t know yourself at all
Arise Arise you citizens of the world use your lungs
Talk back to the Tyrants all they’re afraid of is your tongues

Two hundred Billion dollars inflates World War
In United States every year hey’re asking for more
Russia’s got as much in tanks and laser planes
Give or take Fifty Billion we can blow out everbody’s brains

School’s broken down ’cause History changes every night
Half the Free World nations are Dicatorships of the Right
The only place socialism worked was in Gdansk, Bud
The Communist world’s stuck together with prisoners’ blood

The Generals say they know something worth fighting for
They never say what till they start an unjust war
Iranian hostage Media Hysteria sucked
The Shah ran away with 9 Billion Iranian bucks

Dermit Roosevelt and his U.S. dollars overthrew Mossadegh
They wanted his oil then they got Ayatollah’s dreck
They put in the Shah and they trained his police the Savak
All Iran was our hostage quarter-century That’s right Jack

Bishop Romero wrote President Carter to stop
Sending guns to El Salvador’s junta so he got shot
Ambassador White blew the whistle on the White House lies
Reagan called him home cause he looked in the dead nuns’ eyes

Half the voters didn’t vote they know it was too late
Newspaper headlines called it a big Mandate
Some people voted for Reagan eyes open wide
3 out of 4 didn’t vote for him That’s a landslide

Truth may be hard to find but Falsehood’s easy
Read between the lines our Imperialism is sleazy

But if you think the People’s State is your Heart’s Desire
Jump right back in the frying pan from the fire

The System the System in Russia & China the same
Criticize the System in Budapest lose your name
Coca Cola Pepsi Cola in Russia & China come true
Khrushchev yelled in Hollywood “We will bury You”

America and Russia want to bomb themselves Okay
Everybody dead on both sides Everybody pray
All except the Generals in caves where they can hide
and fuck each other in the ass waiting for the next free ride

No hope Communism no hope Capitalism Yeah
Everybody’s lying on both sides Nyeah nyeah nyeah
The bloody iron curtain of American military Power
Is a mirror image of Russia’s red Babel-Tower

Jesus Christ was spotless but was Crucified by the Mob
Law & Order Herod’s hired soldiers did the job
Flowerpower’s fine but innocence has got no Protection
The man who shot John Lennon had a Hero-worshipper’s connection

The moral of this song is that the world is in a horrible place
Scientific Industry devours the human race
Police in every country armed with tear Gas & TV
Secret Masters everywhere bureaucratize for you and me

Terrorists and police together build a lowerclass Rage
Propaganda murder manipulates the upperclass Stage
Can’t tell the difference ‘tween a turkey & a provacateur
If you’re feeling confused the Government’s in there for sure

Aware Aware wherever you are. No Fear
Trust your heart Don’t ride your Paranoia dear
Breathe together with an ordinary mind
Armed with Humor Feed & Help Enlighten Woe Mankind
Frankfurt-New York, December 15, 1980 By Allen Ginsbe


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