The price of coal concerned us all as it heated House and Manor hall;
A blessing in each homely grate, its embers burning bright.
Black ebony in seam and sheet, far below beneath our feet,
Waited for the gloomy glow of the miner’s prying light.
He dropped away from sight of sun, to glean his wages by the ton;
Peril with him did abound, down in the black gold’s lair.
Through caverns low he’d weave his way, to the cutting face to earn his pay;
A creak would make his blood run cold and fear would spawn a prayer.
A lifetime spent in honest toil, far below his native soil;
Finding Vulcan’s fiery food required a special breed.
Reaping a harvest from a sunken core, sowed aeons ago in times no more;
When primeval ferns of forest laid the product of their seed.
To make the steam and turn the wheel, or drive the screw behind the keel;
To animate the inert, through mechanical transmission.
A lot is owed to old ‘King Coal’; black heart of the nation’s soul,
But more the debt to those who dug it and that is my submission.
In an English town I chanced to meet a miner shuffling down the street,
One shoulder up, the other down, having breathed the dust that kills.
His frame was six foot tall and frail; that lined face was deathly pale,
And as he made his ponderous way he held the window sills.
I nodded as I passed him by; appearing unperturbed, I had to try;
His lips shaped the word “Hello”, but a gasp was the only sound.
Many years since fate first took him, into places dark and grim;
Facing a life of hardened toil with danger all around.
Those of you who push the pen and advocates within our race of men;
Whose destiny did not include; the rigours of the pit.
Think well of him who mined the coal, laid long ago to fuel a role;
A powerful nation was surely built on his single-minded grit.
Monty Alexander 3.1.2002