Songs of the Luddites



As the Liberty lads o’er the sea

Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,

So we, boys, we

Will die fighting, or live free,

And down with all kings but King Ludd!

When the web that we weave is complete,

And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,

We will fling the winding-sheet

O’er the despot at our feet,

And dye it deep in the gore he has pour’d.

Though black as his heart its hue,

Since his veins are corrupted to mud,

Yet this is the dew

Which the tree shall renew

Of Liberty, planted by Ludd!




[The Morning Chronicle, Mar. 2, 1812]

Oh well done Lord E—n! and better Lord R—r!

Britannia must prosper with councils like yours;

HAWKESBURY, HARROWBY, help you to guide her,

Whose remedy only must kill ere it cures:

Those villains, the Weavers, are all grown refractory,

Asking some succour for Charity’s sake–

So hang them in clusters round each Manufactory,

That will at once put an end to mistake.

The rascals, perhaps, may betake them to robbing,

The dogs to be sure have got nothing to eat–

So if we can hang them for breaking a bobbin,

‘Twill save all the Government’s money and meat:

Men are more easily made than machinery–

Stockings fetch better prices than lives–

Gibbets on Sherwood will heighten the scenery,

Showing how Commerce, how Liberty thrives!

Justice is now in pursuit of the wretches,

Grenadiers, Volunteers, Bow-street Police,

Twenty-two Regiments, a score of Jack Ketches,

Three of the Quorum and two of the Peace;

Some Lords, to be sure, would have summoned the Judges,

To take their opinion, but that they ne’er shall,

For LIVERPOOL such a concession begrudges,

So now they’re condemned by no Judges at all.

Some folks for certain have thought it was shocking,

When Famine appeals, and when Poverty groans,

That life should be valued at less than a stocking,

And breaking of frames lead to breaking of bones.

If it should prove so, I trust, by this token,

(And who will refuse to partake in the hope?)

That the frames of the fools may be first to be broken,

Who, when asked for a remedy, sent down a rope.




Come, cropper lads of high renown,

Who love to drink good ale that’s brown,

And strike each haughty tyrant down,

With hatchet, pike, and gun!

Oh, the cropper lads for me,

The gallant lads for me,

Who with lusty stroke,

The shear frames broke,

The cropper lads for me!

What though the specials still advance,

And soldiers nightly round us prance;

The cropper lads still lead the dance,

With hatchet, pike, and gun!

Oh, the cropper lads for me,

The gallant lads for me,

Who with lusty stroke,

The shear frames broke,

The cropper lads for me!

And night by night when all is still

And the moon is hid behind the hill,

We forward march to do our will

With hatchet, pike, and gun!

Oh, the cropper lads for me,

The gallant lads for me,

Who with lusty stroke,

The shear frames broke,

The cropper lads for me!

Great Enoch still shall lead the van.

Stop him who dare! stop him who can!

Press forward every gallant man

With hatchet, pike, and gun!

Oh, the cropper lads for me,

The gallant lads for me,

Who with lusty stroke,

The shear frames broke,

The cropper lads for me!




Come all ye croppers, stout and bold,

Let your faith grow stronger still,

These cropping lads in the County of York

Broke the shears at Horsfall’s Mill.

They broke the shears and the windows too,

Set fire to the tazzling mill;

They formed themselves into a line,

Like soldiers at the drill.

The wind it blew, and the sparks they flew,

And awoke the town fill soon.

People got up in the middle of the night,

And they ran by the light of the moon;

When these lads around the mill did stand,

And they all did vow and swear,

Neither blanket nor can, nor any such thing,

Should be of service there.




[to the tune, “Poor Jack”]

Chant no more your old rhymes about bold Robin Hood,

His feats I but little admire

I will sing the Atchievements of General Ludd

Now the Hero of Nottinghamshire

Brave Ludd was to measures of violence unused

Till his sufferings became so severe

That at last to defend his own Interest he rous’d

And for the great work did prepare

Now by force unsubdued, and by threats undismay’d

Death itself can’t his ardour repress

The presence of Armies can’t make him afraid

Nor impede his career of success

Whilst the news of his conquests is spread far and near

How his Enemies take the alarm

His courage, his fortitude, strikes them with fear

For they dread his Omnipotent Arm!

The guilty may fear, but no vengeance he aims

At [the] honest man’s life or Estate

His wrath is entirely confined to wide frames

And to those that old prices abate

These Engines of mischief were sentenced to die

By unanimous vote of the Trade

And Ludd who can all opposition defy

Was the grand Executioner made

And when in the work of destruction employed

He himself to no method confines

By fire and by water he gets them destroyed

For the Elements aid his designs

Whether guarded by Soldiers along the Highway

Or closely secured in the room

He shivers them up both by night and by day

And nothing can soften their doom

He may censure great Ludd’s disrespect for the Laws

Who ne’er for a moment reflects

That foul Imposition alone was the cause

Which produced these unhappy effects

Let the haughty no longer the humble oppress

Then shall Ludd sheath his conquering Sword

His grievances instantly meet with redress

Then peace will be quickly restored

Let the wise and the great lend their aid and advice

Nor e’er their assistance withdraw

Till full fashioned work at the old fashioned price

Is established by Custom and Law

Then the Trade when this arduous contest is o’er

Shall raise in full splendour its head

And colting and cutting and squaring no more

Shall deprive honest workmen of bread.




In Sherwin’s Political Register 1818 (III, 336)

Tune–Derry Down.

The spinners of Manchester loudly complain

How toilsome their labour, how trifling their gain;

The hatters, the dyers, the weavers also,

Are starving with hunger you very well know.

Derry Down, &c.;

We fondly did hope when the wars were all o’er,

That hunger and thirst we should never feel more,

But woeful experience shews us the reverse,

That the peace only served to complete our distress.

The widows’ salt tears often dropp’d for the dead,

May now flow afresh for the loss of her bread;

Her fatherless children are starving also,

Is this a fit recompence, tell me, or no!

An adequate price for our labour we want,

But this our proud gentry never will grant;

So far they from striving our wrongs to redress,

They laugh at our sufferings, and mock our distress.

Your cringing, soliciting, never will do,

Too oft it has proved unsuccessful to you;

I could tell you a way to relieve your distress,

But I can’t bring the words in to metre my verse.

But a word of advice I would give to you all,

Let no party spirit your bosoms enthral;

Religious divisions, forget them likewise,

Unite in the cause, and you’re sure of the prize.

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