Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Diggers

This was originally titled A Vision for Today, from Yesterday and was sent to me by Hidden From History.

A poor man named Gerrard Winstanley wrote the following words in April, 1649 as he and a handful of other poor folks called the Diggers tried to restore a small part of England to the common treasury with their own hands. Their struggle to create a spiritual communal society under the noses of the landlords and their Cromwellian army met with the same result that happens whenever faith stands unarmed before men with guns.

But Winstanley and the Diggers live on, and his few words not only capture the essence of my life’s calling, but remind me how the Thing we are fighting has rampaged and done its genocide on our people on both sides of the Atlantic.

I hope this reminder will unite us all more with a vision of a world made equal, and one - and thereby stir us into action - and check out the great Billy Bragg song based on their tale! (below):

In the beginning of time the great creator Reason made the Earth to be a common treasury, and not one word was spoken that one branch of mankind should rule over another; and the reason is this, that every single man, male and female, is a perfect creature of himself, and thus none is subject to another …

Yet selfish imagination did alienate man against himself, and did set up one man to teach and rule over another, and expel his fellow from his natural right to the whole earth and its fruits. And hereupon the earth was hedged into enclosures by the false rulers, who stole the earth for themselves and made their fellows their slaves and servants.

And that earth that is within creation, made a common storehouse for all, is now bought and sold, and kept in the hands of a few, and thereby the great creator is dishonored, as if he were a respecter of persons, delighting in the comfortable livelihood of some, and rejoicing in the miserable poverty of others. For in the beginning it was not so …

But when the earth becomes a common treasury again, as it must, owned by none and shared by all, then this enmity of all against all shall cease, and none shall war against another or seek to dominate others, nor desire more of the earth than another.

St. George's Hill, Surrey, England, April 10, 1649

Billy Bragg singing "The Diggers":


In 1649
To St George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people' s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed
Reclaiming what was theirs.

We come in peace, they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the land in common
And to make the waste land grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it can be
A common treasury for all.

The sin of property
We do disdain
No one has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Rise up at their command.

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feeds the rich
While poor men starve.

We work, we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to masters
Or pay rent to the lords
We are free men
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory

Stand up now.

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed -
But still the vision lingers on.

You poor take courage
You rich take care
The earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The order came to cut them down.


Blogger Graeme said...

A brilliant song (although I think bragg calls it "the world turned upside down"). It is an even better story. I didn't know the background behind the song. Thanks!

8:26 PM  

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