Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SONG OF THE PYRAMID-BUILDERS, by HARRY HIBBARD KEMP

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THE SONG OF THE PYRAMID-BUILDERS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We lived below the elephantine / in a papyrus-wattled village
Last Line: And woe to him who flayed us!
Subject(s): Buildings & Builders; Egypt; Pyramids; Slavery; Serfs

WE lived below the Elephantine
In a papyrus-wattled village,
And swung aloof the long shadoof
Above our shelves of tillage.

But Pharaoh came with swords and spears,
To sound of flute and tabor:
For many slaves had sought their graves,
And he was short of labor.

They marched us over leagues of sand,
Away from wife and chattel,
And grew we faint or made complaint
They pricked us on like cattle.

Then, 'neath the overseer's eye,
And to the lashes' crackle,
We heaved away from day to day
With bar, and block, and tackle,

And from our ears the blood gushed out,
And cheeks grew ashen-hollow,—
And if we lagged or the taut ropes sagged
The lash was sure to follow,—

And some of us fell with twitching loins
And died of our endeavor—
And the lash forbore; we could no more
If they beat on forever.

So week by week they dragged us off,
And bore us in a lighter
Adown the Nile, poor carrion-pile;
They soaked us well in nitre,

And tossed us in the mummy-pit,
Bones cased in skin like leather ...
But, some great day, the prophets say,
We'll all rise up together,

And meet our slayers face to face
Before the God who made us—
Then woe to him who crushed the limb,
And woe to him who flayed us!

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