A Poetic Celebration of Labor Day

As we celebrate Labor Day–a day established to honor the American Labor Movement and all that American workers have contributed to our nation’s strength, prosperity, and well-being–let’s also take time to celebrate the dignity of work itself–all work–and to reflect on the importance of work in our own lives.

American poet Walt Whitman is in my thoughts on many days, but perhaps on no day do I think of him more than on Labor Day.

Whitman is the poet, America.

Whitman is the poet, Democracy.

Whitman is the poet, Labor.

This Labor Day, I hope that you, too, hear America singing.

I Hear America Singing

Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass, 1860 ed.)

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.