More on the Luddite Songs

The following encapsulates a presentation I was to give, but said presentation was OBE (overcome by events, for you folks without military experience).  Here is the part and parcel of it:


  • Visually analyze the Luddites texts as a corpus
    • Explore the use of text visualization tools like Voyant
  • Use visual analysis as a springboard to traditional analysis
  • Focus on a piece or a passage suggested by the tools
  • See where things go

The Literature

Byron, Song for the Luddites

Byron, An Ode to the Framers of the Bill

Anonymous, The Cropper’s Song

Anonymous, Horsfall’s Mill

Anonymous, General Ludd’s Triumph

Taylor, Distress of the Poor


  • The field (discipline?) of text visualization is broad
  • 1180 words is hardly a corpus
  • Visualization is itself an art form

The word that leapt out from the cloud (see previous posts’s images) was lads.  Words like cropper and broke and frames were expected in Luddite work.  Further examination revealed that most of the instances of the word lads were in The Cropper’s Song (14 of 17).  It was part of the song’s refrain, which rendered it less interesting, so I moved on to the instance in Byron’s Song for the Luddites and a touch of traditional analysis.

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 word is in the first line and the alliteration of “Liberty lads” draws attention to the direction the piece is heading.

There’s the obvious allusion to Jefferson: “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. it is it’s natural manure.”  (Source: The Jefferson Monticello).  The rhymes with Ludd (mud, blood) are more than just sound, they depict the poorness and desperation of the Luddite movement.  The are in the mud (the mire of poverty caused by the loss of their trade) as well as of the mud (honest tradesmen, whose work is tied closely to the land).  Blood’s dual meanings are expressed as well–the necessity of the tradesmen’s work for the body politic to prosper and the violence to which they have been brought.

Liberty in first and last lines bounds the activities within.  The term indicates that the cause of the Luddites, like the American Revolution, is to break away from the oppression that limits freedom.

Using some of the tools from the site Language is a Virus offered a new look at the text.  The reversal tool, for example, yielded:

by planted Liberty, renew
Of shall tree the dew
Which the is this mud,
Yet to corrupted are veins his hue,
Since its heart his as black pour’d.
Though has he gore the in deep it dye feet,
And our at despot the winding-sheet
O’er the fling will sword,
We the for exchanged shuttle the complete,
And is weave we that web the Ludd!
When King but kings all with down free,
And live or fighting, die we
Will boys, we, blood,
So with cheaply, and freedom, their sea
Bought the o’er lads Liberty the As.

It looked mostly like gibberish, but there may be something to find in the line end rhymes which the tool choose to maintain (dew/renew; feet/sheet).  As the purpose of the exercise was to continue exploring, that’s what I did, this time with the cut-up tool, a la Burroughs and the Dadaists.  The first run through gave us

by shall will for live kings this our are its is down shuttle We feet corrupted the hue So to at Though King has sword Liberty the planted with that die the tree fling When the with And heart the the Yet exchanged pour’d Which he blood the we their boys Will we complete renew Since deep all it black we as sheet is but Bought and the Ludd fighting his Liberty Ludd web dew gore freedom Of dye or As cheaply mud O’er free sea o’er his despot in lads the And winding the And veins weave

and the second one

sword lads Ludd And deep complete sea kings Liberty Ludd has their Which shall Bought the we tree free And boys die dye the down and sheet dew to with the is black with that by our will Since freedom the we we corrupted Liberty in exchanged shuttle Yet pour’d gore his web all feet So the live heart Though for are the the cheaply weave Of is despot this renew We the When As the its King fighting the hue blood or at And he fling it mud veins O’er but Will o’er his winding as planted

Taking the text out of its original order allows us to find individual words that we might gloss over in traditional readings.  Our brains understand how our language operates so that we often know what’s coming next in a sentence.  Breaking out of the standard pattern of how the language and its speech operates allows us to find individual nuggets like “corrupted the hue,” which may lead us to see the color imagery words scattered throughout and ask if blood is one of them.

I moved on to playing around with some visual poetry courtesy of, such as the tree image.


  • Visualization is primarily a tool for exploration, not explanation.
  • Visualization tools recognize patterns normal reading might miss.
  • Visualization is be an aid to traditional analysis while opening new analysis avenues.



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