“The Poor Voter on Election Day”
By John Greenleaf Whittier
The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
Today, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.
Today, alike the great and small,
The nameless and the known;
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!
Who serves today upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!
The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong today;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.
Today let pomp and vain pretense
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.
Today shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land;
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!
While there’s grief to set redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dustâ€”
While there’s a right to need my vote,
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man today!
I’m not a sentimentalist. In fact, I’m a skeptic. But I try to read this poem to my classes every election yearâ€”it sounds much better when spoken, slowlyâ€”and my voice breaks a little every time I do.