new zealand electronic poetry centre

Lola Ridge

online works

The Martyrs of Hell

Not your martyrs anointed of heaven,
      The ages are red where they trod;
But the hunted – the world’s bitter leaven,
      Who smote at your imbecile God:

A being to pander and fawn to;
      To propitiate, flatter, and dread
As a thing that your souls are in pawn to,
      A dealer that barters the dead;

Who gloats with a vengeance unsated,
      And sells the lost souls in His snares
Who were trapped in the lusts He created –
      For incense and masses and prayers.

They are crushed in the coils of your halters:
      ‘Twere well, by the creeds ye have nursed,
To send up a cry from your altars,
      A mass for the martyers accursed.

Just a passionate prayer for reprieval,
      For the Brotherhood not understood –
For the heroes who died for the evil,
      Believing the evil was good.

Here’s a toast that has never been given;
      Listen, thralls of the Book and the Bell:
To the souls of the martyrs unshriven,
      The bondmen who dared to rebel –

To the Breakers, the Bold, the Despoilers,
      Who dreamed of a world overthrown;
They who died for the millions of toilers,
      Few – fronting the nations alone;

To the Outlawed of men and the Branded,
      Whether hated or hating they fell,
I pledge the devoted, red-handed,
      Unfaltering heroes of hell!


‘The Martyrs of Hell,’ Mother Earth 4.2 (Apr 1909): 33-34.
See also ‘A Toast,’ The Ghetto 1918: 62-63.

Last updated 30 May, 2013