Song for Occupations, Part 5

by Walt Whitman (written and often revised between 1860 and 1881)

Will the whole come back then?
Can each see signs of the best by a look in the looking-glass? is
there nothing greater or more?
Does all sit there with you, with the mystic unseen soul?


Strange and hard that paradox true I give,
Objects gross and the unseen soul are one.


House-building, measuring, sawing the boards,
Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing,
shingle-dressing,
Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, flagging of sidewalks by
flaggers,
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and
brick-kiln,
Coal-mines and all that is down there, the lamps in the darkness,
echoes, songs, what meditations, what vast native thoughts
looking through smutch’d faces,
Iron-works, forge-fires in the mountains or by river-banks, men
around feeling the melt with huge crowbars, lumps of ore,
the due combining of ore, limestone, coal,
The blast-furnace and the puddling-furnace, the loup-lump at the
bottom of the melt at last, the rolling-mill, the stumpy
bars of pig-iron, the strong clean-shaped T-rail for rail-
roads,
Oil-works, silk-works, white-lead-works, the sugar-house, steam-
saws, the great mills and factories,
Stone-cutting, shapely trimmings for façades or window or door-
lintels, the mallet, the tooth-chisel, the jib to protect the
thumb,
The calking-iron, the kettle of boiling vault-cement, and the fire
under the kettle,
The cotton-bale, the stevedore’s hook, the saw and buck of the
sawyer, the mould of the moulder, the working-knife of
the butcher, the ice-saw, and all the work with ice,
The work and tools of the rigger, grappler, sail-maker, block-
maker,
Goods of gutta-percha, papier-maché, colors, brushes, brush-
making, glazier’s implements,
The veneer and glue-pot, the confectioner’s ornaments, the
decanter and glasses, the shears and flat-iron,The awl and knee-strap, the pint measure and quart measure, the
counter and stool, the writing-pen of quill or metal, the
making of all sorts of edged tools,
The brewery, brewing, the malt, the vats, every thing that is done
by brewers, wine-makers, vinegar-makers,
Leather-dressing, coach-making, boiler-making, rope-twisting, dis-
tilling, sign-painting, lime-burning, cotton-picking,
electro-plating, electrotyping, stereotyping,
Stave-machines, planing-machines, reaping-machines, ploughing-
machines, thrashing-machines, steam wagons,
The cart of the carman, the omnibus, the ponderous dray,
Pyrotechny, letting off color’d fireworks at night, fancy figures and
jets;
Beef on the butcher’s stall, the slaughter-house of the butcher, the
butcher in his killing-clothes,
The pens of live pork, the killing-hammer, the hog-hook, the
scalder’s tub, gutting, the cutter’s cleaver, the packer’s maul,
and the plenteous winterwork of pork-packing,
Flour-works, grinding of wheat, rye, maize, rice, the barrels and
the half and quarter barrels, the loaded barges, the high
piles on wharves and levees,
The men and the work of the men on ferries, railroads, coasters,
fish-boats, canals;
The hourly routine of your own or any man’s life, the shop, yard,
store, or factory, These shows all near you by day and night—workman! whoever you are, your daily life!


In that and them the heft of the heaviest—in that and them far
more than you estimated, (and far less also,)
In them realities for you and me, in them poems for you and me,
In them, not yourself—you and your soul enclose all things, re-
gardless of estimation,
In them the development good—in them all themes, hints, possi-
bilities.

I do not affirm that what you see beyond is futile, I do not advise
you to stop,
I do not say leadings you thought great are not great,
But I say that none lead to greater than these lead to.

Tribute to the American Working People (Central Panel) [Encore Post]

by Honore Sharrer

Oil on composition board 1946-1951

Honoré Desmond Sharrer (July 12, 1920 – April 17, 2009) was an American artist. She first received public acclaim in 1950 for her painting Tribute to the American Working People, a five-image polyptych conceived in the form of a Renaissance altarpiece, except that its central figure (shown above) is a factory worker and not a saint. The finished work is more than six feet wide and three feet high and took her five years to complete. It is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Cotton Mill Girl

American Traditional
popularized by Hedy West, 1963
performed by Oldtime String Band

I worked in the cotton mill all my life,
I ain’t got nothin’ but a Barlow knife.
Hard time cotton mill girls,
Hard time everywhere.

Chorus (after each verse):
And it’s hard times cotton mill girls,
Hard times cotton mill girls,
Hard times cotton mill girls,
Hard times everywhere.

Nineteen-fifteen I heard it said
Go to cotton country and get ahead
But it’s hard times, cotton mill girls,
Hard times everywhere.

Gilmer to Barlow’s a long long way
Down Ellijay to Cartecay.
It’s hard times, cotton mill girls,
Hard times everywhere.

Us kids worked twelve hours a day
For fourteen cents of measly pay
Hard times, cotton mill girls,
Hard times everywhere.

When I die, don’t bury me at all,
Just hang my body on the spinning room wall,
Pickle my bones in alcohol,
It’s hard time cotton mill girls.

Names of Horses

by Donald Hall

All winter your brute shoulders strained against
collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and
     summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the
     simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread
     on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own
     clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and
     hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high
     in the morning;
and after noon’s heat, you pulled a clawed rake
     through the same acres,


gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from
     stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy
     barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the
     morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with
     the light load
of a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the
     sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the
     windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the seas
     smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders
     hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you,
     and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground
     above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood
     shuddering in your skin,


and lay the shotgun’s muzzle in the boneless
     hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you
     into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod
     upright above you,
where by the next summer a dent in the ground
     made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the pasture of 
     dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves
     of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn,
     and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground—old toilers,
     soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester,
     Lady Ghost.

Blacksmiths of Modernity

During the Soviet era, mosaics, a publicly-sanctioned art form, appeared throughout the Soviet Union, as propaganda and inspirational monuments. Much like our current efforts to take down memorials to Confederate generals and famous American owners of slaves, many are being “decommunized” and left in disrepair, to the consternation of Western art historians and intellectuals.

This one, “Blacksmiths of Modernity” (1974) remains at the Institute for Nuclear Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The artists are Halyna Zubchenko and Hryhorii Pryshedko