Bread and Roses

This poem by James Oppenheim has also been adapted as a song.  The poem itself dates back to 1911 and is based on a political slogan which said that the worker must have bread but she must also have roses.  Quite right!  It continues to be used by those calling for better living conditions and I like it because of what it represents.

Bread and Roses

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day, BlogBreadRoses
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men —
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes —
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses.

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew —
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days —
The rising of the women means the rising of the race —
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes —
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

James Oppenheim