September 01, 2006

Poetry Friday: Labo(u)r Day edition

Whither? (To a Young Girl)
by Morris Rosenfeld (1862-1923)

Say whither, whither, pretty one?
The hour is young at present!
How hushed is all the world around!
Ere dawn -- the streets hold not a sound.
O whither, whither do you run?
Sleep at this hour is pleasant.
The flowers are dreaming, dewy-wet;
The bird-nests they are silent yet.
Where to, before the rising sun
The world her light is giving?

"To earn a living."

O whither, whither, pretty child,
So late at night a-strolling?
Alone -- with darkness round you curled?
All rests! -- and sleeping is the world.
Where drives you now the wind so wild?
The midnight bells are tolling!
Day hath not warmed you with her light;
What aid can'st hope then from the night?
Night's deaf and blind! -- Oh whither, child,
Light-minded fancies weaving?

"To earn a living."

from Songs of Labor and Other Poems by Morris Rosenfeld, translated from Yiddish by Rose Pastor Stokes and Helena Frank


On a related note, here's an interesting Essay about Triangle Fire Poetry by Janet Zandy, on the website of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. (psst... A shirtwaist is "A woman's blouse or bodice styled like a tailored shirt".)

More on the history of Labor Day and Labour Day. Not surprisingly, Canada claims that American carpenter Peter McGuire, credited with the establishment of Labor Day, borrowed the idea from an 1872 Toronto workingman's demonstration. Then again, there are those who credit American machinist Matthew Maguire, though his inspiration is less clear.

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