To Joseph J. Ettor on His Twenty-Seventh Birthday (Arturo Giovannitti)

“To Joseph J. Ettor on His Twenty-Seventh Birthday”

Lyrics: Arturo Giovannitti.
Tune: Unknown.


Well, Joe, my good friend, though we cannot pretend
That we’re happy, we still can regale,
We can laugh and be merry, though claret and sherry
Are so scarce to us, even in jail;
But although our good wine is the prison’s foul brine
And the hangman’s our welcoming host,
Let us think it Chianti and quaff it a-plenty
While for you I revise my old toast.

Let us drink a new toast to the dear Woolen trust,
To the legions of “Country and God,”
To the great Christian cause and the wise noble laws,
And to all who cry out for our blood.
Let us drink to the health of the old Commonwealth.
To the Bible and code in one breath,
And let’s so propitiate both the church and the state
That they’ll grant us a cheerful, quick death.

For altho’ you are brave, you’ll admit that the grave
Has much better surroundings than these,
And we’ll hear there no more the hard slam of the door
And the clank of the terrible keys;
Even as I, though I’m game, must admit just the same,
When I think of my love and my home,
That my heart is oppressed and my soul is distressed
By the thought of the years yet to come.

And I cannot conceive all the years we must grieve
For the dream that no hope can revive,
And my heart seems to sink when I tremblingly think
Of the One who will mourn me alive;
For when last I did gaze on her sweet, saint-like face,
That forever from me would be barred,
Well, the only good way I could keep looking gay
Was to think of a nice big graveyard.

Yes, I know it is good, in some soul-stirring mood
To drive out all these sullen complaints,
And I know it feels great to believe that our fate
Will be that of the martyrs and saints.
But what joy is in truth if our passionate youth
Like an underground runnel must flow
That no thirst ever slakes, but just feeds the gray lakes
Of the kingdom of silence and woe?

Nay, ’tis all silly fuss, there’s no wisdom in us
To renounce to the brunt of the strife;
We were wrought on the fire and to love and desire
And to fight and to sing is our life.
So, should we many a year be immured alive here,
Now that you’re twenty-seven, old mate,
The best wish I can make for your own and my sake
Is that never you be twenty-eight.

And so, here’s to the hope for the trap and the rope
As the best for us sure is the worst,
And because I am older and you are the bolder,
Here’s a health that they hang me the first;
For, should justice be shunned, both on Earth and beyond,
After bidding to you my farewell,
I would fain as your scout be the first to find out
And the first to receive you in hell.


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