Here in the grey slate caverns ’neath the Earth
The manual labourer of yesteryear
Was condemned by his lowliness of birth
To eke out an existence most austere.
Long days spent shov’lling dirt and hewing slate,
Month in, month out, with only Sundays free
To pray in church and thank God for his fate,
That he lived not in total poverty.
Never venturing from this brumous vale
To learn what life outside it must have held;
A good wench and a bellyful of ale,
So were his thirsts quenched and his passions quelled.
But in his later years, his eyes grown dim,
His hands calloused, his lungs furred up with dust,
Morose of thought and arthritic of limb,
How vehemently his lords he must have cussed.
Yet if today his ghost were to return
And walk the streets of villages in Wales,
His spirit would grow more and not less stern
To see how little has changed in the vales.
And if he were to venture far abroad
To foreign lands, the self-same sights he’d see,
And witness broken workmen curse their lords
As he cursed his this bygone century.
[The above was first published in Wrong Side Of The River.]
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