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Work, Recreation, Rest (1906)

An Eight-Hour Day Poem

In old creation's time 'twas God who said
That man should gain, by sweat of brow, his bread,
And that the fruits, which ere man's fall, the earth
Had given untoiled for must, through toil, have birth ;
That ground uncultured--'neath the Almighty's ban--
Should bring forth weeds instead of food for man.
Yet did kind heaven some compensation send,
And made man's health upon his toil depend.
Toil sweetened rest and gave assurance true
That work was good for mind and body, too,
Yet not o'erdone ; for so it was decreed
That partial work should full supply his need--
One third the day, if man but rightly wrought
In ardent toil, from heaven a blessing brought
And gave him fourfold, as a due reward
And recognition from his gracious Lord.

Ye sons of toil, rejoice ! Your patent see
Proclaiming you the earth's nobility.
From no ennobled ruffian dates your claim ;
Your title is Divine--from heaven it came.
Rejoice that when the hour of Labour's done,
Your grateful hearts can feel your rest is won.
And when repose the body's strength renews,
The ample means you have the mind t'amuse ;
If young and stalwart, haply manly sports
Entice you to their various resorts--
To where the opposing teams at football play,
Or, in the season, cricket skill display.
Perchance, to bay or stream where rowers strong
Propel their crafts with lightning speed along ;
If more sedate, and blest with wife and child,
A rural walk amid the landscape wild,
To where fair Flora decks the varied scene,
Within the pale where science, too, is seen ;
Or, line in hand, with cunning hook and bait,
To catch the unwary finny tribe await.

If Art allures you, to her home repair,
And scan the treasures skill has painted there ;
Go where the wonders Nature doth unfold
Have gathered been from worlds both new and old--
There trace the evidence of deep design,
Which proves the hand that made them was divine,
While all prepared the realms of Science lie
To show its glories to the enquiring eye.
If love of home and fireside joys, prevail,
Bring forth the magazine or fictious tale,
Or lull the ear with Music's pleasing charm--
Sweet Music ! Nature's dearest, soothing balm.

While some to club or institute adjourn
To argue subjects which mankind concern :
The laws of health, well-being of the State,
And all the affairs to which this life relate ;
Or, on the chess boards mimic battle-field,
By extra skill compel their foes to yield.
The few with thoughtful mind and active brain,
(In which the seeds of genius may have laid)
Invent, devise, and perfect some new plan
To ease the labour, erstwhile done by man,
And thus the world's wealth aggregate increase
By adding somewhat from the arts of Peace.
These are thy joys, Oh, Leisure ! These to all
The Almighty gave e'en after Adam's fall.

See yon cadaverous wretch, who slaves for wealth,
In soul insolvent, bankrupt, too, in health,
He toils beyond the appointed time for gold,
To buy earth's baubles while his life is sold.
Look on the man whose reason holds full sway--
Who in three parts rightly divides the day
Eight hours to Work--to Recreation eight--
The rest on Nature's "sweet restorer" wait ;
Of healthy frame with thoughts each eye may scan.
He gives the world assurance of "a man,"
Then Sons of Labor, for your rights combine
And show to all your 'scutcheon is Divine ;
Throughout your lives be this your motto true--
"Fair play to all, and everyone his due."

E J.S.


From the NSW newspaper the Wellington Times 1 Oct 1906 p. 3.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory