Friday, March 7, 2014

"The Man with a Hoe"

"The Man with a Hoe" a poem by Edwin Markham, 1899, was written as a verbal response to an earlier scene by a French painter, Jean-Francois Millet, in 1863. Both painting and poem have been "moving testimonies" to what the too prevalent - Inhumanity of Man - can cause.

Ever since first reading Markham's poem, fifty/sixty years ago, I've frequently conjured up the image of modern man caught in his current escapades of being inhuman to his fellow persons. I think of war, of slavery, oppression, and hunger. I see the sophistication of methods to kill, to oppress, to enslave. Markham saw these too a hundred years ago and wrote his compelling commentary about what inhumanity of humanity can cause. 

I urge everyone interested to pull up on your devise "The Man with a Hoe" and determine for yourself the image Markham leaves with you. During these trying times in Crimea the World fears a return to the warped images long ago displayed in both painting and verse. 

"The World is too much with us; late and soon, ..." are words of another poet, William Wordsworth, who through words a hundred years prior to Markham's expressed similar concern. Those who incessantly rattle sabers inject a fear in me of a life ending, all life ending nuclear winter. It's a given, that my expected lifespan is minimal at best, but I feel for my grandkids and great grandkids who have tasted life and have been told the future is out there alive for them. What do I tell them ?

Ronald C. Downie

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