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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

Although child labor was not a serious problem in the Scandinavian countries,
Rydberg was appalled by its existence anywhere.
In the poem, Grotte is the machinery that even children are sacrificed to for greed´s sake.

from: The New Song of Grotte

V. Grotte seen from a distance and close to

Grotte grinds with power and craft,
Nightlong, daylong, shift on shift—
Monstrous millstone spinning ever,
Beam and rod and wheel and lever
Circling round his axle-shaft,
Flashing till the eye´s a little
Muddled by their wild career.
Children nearest to the middle
Push the bar in deepest fear.
If the little form seems slack,
Wake it up with one good whack!
Grotte can´t afford to settle
For one single
Less than all that still remain,
Therefore slash with whip and cane!
Tears stream down and face looks stricken,
Cheeks go pale and sinews weaken.
Weep, you little slave, and wail
If it helps, just don´t stand still!
Tears stop at the thought of stumbling
And in ghastly terror tumbling
To be trodden underfoot
By the next who follow suit.
You yourself were forced to trample
Many other fallen plums,
Slaving here in Grotte´s temple.

Oh and at that muffled tramp
Which behind you comes and comes
Then your little hand will cramp
On the dreadful bar, but fumble—
Cramp itself´s too weak—you slip,
Lose your place and lose your grip,
Down on weary knees you go,
Tumble under, then you´re dead,
Trampled to a bloody dough
By a thousand children´s
Torment-weighted tread.

Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895)

Swedish poet, novelist, essayist, idealist philosopher

Translation by Judith Moffet