Eliza Cook ( )

God Speed the Plough

GOD speed the plough! be this a prayer
To find its echo everywhere;
But curses on the iron hand
That grasps one rood of common land.
Sure theres enough of earth beside,
Held by the sons of Wealth and Pride;
Their glebe is wide enough without
Our commons being fenced about!

We guard the spot where steeples rise
In stately grandeur to the skies;
We mark the place where altars shine,
As hallowed, sainted, and divine;	
And just as sacred should we hold
The turf, where peasants blithe and bold,
Can plant their footsteps day or night,
In free, unquestioned, native right.

The common rangethe common range
Oh! guard it from invading change;
Though rough, tis richthough poor, tis blest,
And will be while the skylarks nest
And early violets are there,	
Filling with sweetness earth and air.

It glads the eyeit warms the soul,
To gaze upon the rugged knoll;
Where tangled brushwood twines across
The straggling brake and sedgy moss.
Oh! who would give the blackthorn leaves
For harvests full and rustling sheaves?
Oh! who would have the grain spring up
Where now we find the daisys cup;
Where clumps of dark red heather gleam,
With beauty in the summer beam
And yellow furze-bloom laughs to scorn
Your ripened hops and bursting corn?
God speed the plough! but let us trace
Something of Natures infant face;
Let us behold some spot where man
Has not yet set his bar and ban;
Leave us the green wastes, fresh and wild,
For poor mans beast and poor mans child!

Tis well to turn our trusty steeds
In chosen stalls and clover meads;
We like to see our gallant grey
Snuff daintily his fragrant hay;
But the poor sandmans Blind old Ball
Lacks grooms and clover, oats and stall.

With tired limbs and bleeding back
He takes his steady, homeward track;
The hovel gained, he neighs with glee,
From burthen, whip, and bridle free:
Turned forth he flings his bony length;
And rolls with all his waning strength;
Up on his trembling legs again,
He shakes himself from tail to mane,
And, nibbling with a grateful zest,
Finds on the common food and rest.

Hark to the shouts of peasant boys,
With ill-carved bats, and unchecked noise!
While cricket, with its light-heeled mirth,
Leaves scars upon the grassy earth
Too deeply lined by Summers play,
For Winters storms to wear away.
Spent by the game, they rove apart,
With lounging form and careless heart;
One by the rushy pond will float
Old Dilworth in a paper boat;
Another wades, with legs all bare,
To pluck the water-lily fair;
Others will sit and chatter oer
The village fund of cricket lore
Quote this rare catch, and that bold run,
Till, having gossiped down the sun,
They promise, with a loud Good night!
That, if to-morrows sky be bright,
Theyll be again where they have been
For yearsupon the common green.

The chicken tribethe duckling brood,
Go there to scratch their daily food;
The woodmans coltthe widows cows,
Unwatcheduntetheredthere may browse;
And though the pasturage be scant,
It saves from keen and starving want.

God speed the plough! let fields be tilled,
Let ricks be heaped and garners filled;
Tis good to count the Autumn gold,
And try how much our barns can hold:
But every English heart will tell
It loves an English common well;
And curse the hard and griping hand
That wrests away such hallowed land:
That shuts the green waste, fresh and wild:
From poor mans beast and poor mans child.

Eliza Cook's other poems:
  1. The Raising of the Maypole
  2. Teddy O'Neale
  3. They All Belong to Me
  4. The Banner of Union
  5. There's a Star in the West

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