Percy Bysshe Shelley

(1792-1822 / Horsham / England)

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To The Men Of England


Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?

Wherefore feed and clothe and save,
From the cradle to the grave,
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat -- nay, drink your blood?

Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?

Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love's gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?

The seed ye sow another reaps;
The wealth ye find another keeps;
The robes ye weave another wears;
The arms ye forge another bears.

Sow seed, -- but let no tyrant reap;
Find wealth, -- let no imposter heap;
Weave robes, -- let not the idle wear;
Forge arms, in your defence to bear.

Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;
In halls ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.

With plough and spade and hoe and loom,
Trace your grave, and build your tomb,
And weave your winding-sheet, till fair
England be your sepulchre!

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Rookie - 261 Points Stephen W (11/25/2014 6:55:00 PM)

    Quite mysterious, the last two stanzas. He seems to be advocating passive, yet armed, resistance. It's a bit odd, yet oddly modern. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 2,908 Points Veeraiyah Subbulakshmi (11/25/2014 8:15:00 AM)

    Percy, if you were alive today what would you have written, observing the modern way of living of modern people, who live in the council house and the high income status. we, the people from the developing regions, have to repeat your poem, Thank you for sharing.. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 2,908 Points Veeraiyah Subbulakshmi (11/25/2014 8:15:00 AM)

    Percy, if you were alive today what would you have written, observing the modern way of living of modern people, who live in the council house and the high income status. we, the people from the developing regions, have to repeat your poem, Thank you for sharing.. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 83 Points Meshack Bankole (11/25/2013 4:57:00 PM)

    A classic bunch of advice! It is very simple and straight-to-shoulder for an average citizen to swallow (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sixtus Osim (11/25/2013 3:53:00 AM)

    Though Shelley could be accused of insular here, but for sake of poesy, he goes squad free.

    This is the inference I draw form this Poem;

    (But aside, I am sure she this could a mediation inspired from one the Gospel I can't be exact now)

    The inference is: you have to sow where you can reap, not where spoil shall take - sow in God. If there is anything one can boast of in this life, it is his soul. Use your hands and brain wisely; doing good works such as this poem and others that leaves your indelible mark in this world.

    Shelley, I wish this world more of your kind. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Cs Vishwanathan (11/25/2010 3:14:00 AM)

    Of Shelley it can be truly said he was 'a scorner of the ground, of the air airy, and carried a fire on his breath'. His entire oeure is pitched on a high note with nerves on edge all the time. He is excellent because of this. His romanticism is totally imagined. The last stanza of this poem shows this attribute in its word concatenation. This poem is a clarion call for the oppressed against the oppressor. It is not a Marxist tub-thumping. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Neethu Kunjachan (11/25/2009 9:16:00 AM)

    a very inspiring poem, eventhough shelly meant it 4 the England in his time, it has a universal application, it has many inspiring quotes & it also has Shelly's mark as a sensual poet... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Padmapriya Boddapati (11/25/2009 6:47:00 AM)

    A true romantic at heart, Shelley has spoken well on behalf of all mankind.
    'Sow seed.............in your defence bear' is what all patriotic hearts wish for.
    By the way, if Willam Shakespeare is one of the people who read Shelley, I do hope he is reading all other good poems on PoemHunter.com also. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (11/25/2009 5:47:00 AM)

    Shlley expresses the feeling that many people, high and low, felt at that time that England was not herself when so many people were seriously, even life-threateningly, deprived of the basic creature comforts. And this was before the worst ravages of capitalist laissez faire had their effect later in the 19th century. England escaped the revolutionary horrors of France, Russia, China and Germany precisely because of a sense from top to bottom of the social scale that this was not the way to organise a society. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Sujit Sinha (11/25/2009 3:30:00 AM)

    Good you pointed this poem out to me.This has great historical value. So it was not just Mr Marx or Herr Engels who felt so - some one like Shelley also did so. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 294 Points Ramesh T A (11/25/2009 12:26:00 AM)

    Let the toiling lot enjoy freedom due to them and live as free men in their own soil! A nice message though meant for the English is fit for all in the world anytime! Wonderful inspiring poem! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jimmy Wrangler (11/25/2007 6:41:00 AM)

    In the spirit of Christmas, bring out your Ogden Nash for the Poem Of The Day. Save Mr.Shelley for the dark cold days of Feburary when you have the mood for this sort of thing. (Report) Reply

Read all 18 comments »

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