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The Poor Voter on Election Day
by
John Greenleaf Whittier


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The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
To-day, alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known;
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!
Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.
To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.
To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land;
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!
While there’s a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dust, —
While there’s a right to need my vote,
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day! 


This poem is in the public domain.

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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 - 1892) was one of the "Fireside Poets," called such because their work was popular enough to be read (ostensibly by the fire) in homes all over America. And Whittier was one of those rare poets who actually made a rather comfortable living from the proceeds of his work. Born into a Massachusetts farm family, Whittier was introduced to poetry by one of his school teachers. An avid reader and writer early on, Whittier spent much of his working life as an editor, though he had political aspirations as well. He was a staunch abolitionist, and produced two collections of anti-slavery poems, along with an anti-slavery pamphlet that managed to incur the wrath of both sides and effectively any hopes Whittier had of a political career. Critical opinion on the value of Whittier's poetry is mixed. Some dismiss it as overly emotional, while others believe the heartfelt simplicity is precisely its appeal.

 


New comments are closed for now.
Peggyharmann:
I just saw the comment from 69Dorcas regarding Stan Madden. I have several of Stan's poems and would like to connect with the person that comment about him. my email is peggyharmann at gmail
Posted 11/01/2013 02:27 AM
69Dorcas:
There once lived a mountain man poet, educated only to the fifth grade, who gained some of his poetic grandise from Whittier, and through him (Stan Madden)I became aware of the subtlety of Whittier, which I too have grown to love. Thank you for this selection. I read Snow-Bound.
Posted 11/09/2011 11:02 PM
Katrina:
The next step is to vote for (or against) a policy. How can a representative possibly reflect your interests?
Posted 11/08/2011 10:15 AM
Eiken:
Great poem. We just had a vote for a new president so a very on time poem for me. Thank you.
Posted 11/08/2011 09:23 AM
phebe.davidson@gmail.com:
I've always had a weakness for Whittier, whose poems I remember in my grandmother's voice. What a good choice this is!
Posted 11/08/2011 07:27 AM
Julianne Carlile:
Yes, I feel that pride when I vote. A wonderful poem.
Posted 11/08/2011 05:36 AM


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