Song for the Luddites

Maiden Speech in the House of Lords (27th February, 1812)
Lord Byron's speech in defence of the Luddites.

"During the short time I recently passed in Nottingham, not twelve hours elapsed without some fresh act of violence; and on that day I left the the county I was informed that forty Frames had been broken the preceding evening, as usual, without resistance and without detection.

Such was the state of that county, and such I have reason to believe it to be at this moment. But whilst these outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalleled distress: the perseverance of these miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove that nothing but absolute want could have driven a large, and once honest and industrious, body of the people, into the commission of excesses so hazardous to themselves, their families, and the community.

They were not ashamed to beg, but there was none to relieve them: their own means of subsistence were cut off, all other employment preoccupied; and their excesses, however to be deplored and condemned, can hardly be subject to surprise.

As the sword is the worst argument than can be used, so should it be the last. In this instance it has been the first; but providentially as yet only in the scabbard. The present measure will, indeed, pluck it from the sheath; yet had proper meetings been held in the earlier stages of these riots, had the grievances of these men and their masters (for they also had their grievances) been fairly weighed and justly examined, I do think that means might have been devised to restore these workmen to their avocations, and tranquillity to the country."

Song for the Luddites – Byron 1816

As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Brought their freedom, and cheaply with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings by King Ludd !
When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
We will fling the winding sheet
O'er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has pour'd.
Though black as his heart its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
Yet this is the dew
Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Ludd !


This song came with the following note from Byron to Mr. Moore:–

1 ["Are you not near the Luddites ? By the Lord ! if there 's a row, but I'll be among ye ! How go on the weavers—the breakers of frames—the Lutherans of politics—the re-formers ? . . . . . . . There 's an amiable chanson for you !—all impromptu. I have written it principally to shock your neighbour—, who is all clergy and loyalty—mirth and innocence—milk and water."—Lord Byron to Mr. Moore, Dec. 24. 1816.]