23 August 2007

Sacco and Vanzetti Day

80 years ago today, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for murder and theft. And, probably, for being immigrants with unpopular political opinions.

Webster Thayer, the trial judge, told the jury "This man, (Vanzetti) although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions."

I have no idea if they did or did not commit the crime because the trial seemed to be more about getting possibly violent foreigners safely under lock and key by whatever means necessary. It was a dangerous time and acts of lethal violence, particularly involving bombs, were being used to make political points.

Gosh, I wish that the whole thing didn't seem so....contemporary.

Justice Denied in Massachusetts

by Edna St. Vincent Millay(1927)

Let us abandon then our gardens and go home
And sit in the sitting-room.
Shall the larkspur blossom or the corn grow under the cloud?
Sour to the fruitful seed
Is the cold earth under this cloud,
Fostering quack and weed, we have marched upon but cannot conquer;
We have bent the blades of our hoes against the stalks of them.

Let us go home, and sit in the sitting-room.
Not in our day
Shall the cloud go over and the sun rise as before,
Beneficent upon us
Out of the glittering bay,
And the warm winds be blown inward from the sea
Moving the blades of corn
With a peaceful sound.
Forlorn, forlorn,
Stands the blue hay-rack by the empty mow.
And the petals drop to the ground,
Leaving the tree unfruited.
The sun that warmed our stooping backs and withered the weed uprooted -
We shall not feel it again.
We shall die in darkness, and be buried in the rain.

What from the splendid dead
We have inherited -
Furrows sweet to the grain, and the weed subdued -
See now the slug and the mildew plunder.
Evil does not overwhelm
The larkspur and the corn;
We have seen them go under.

Let us sit here, sit still,
Here in the sitting-room until we die;
At the step of Death on the walk, rise and go;
Leaving to our children's children this beautiful doorway,
And this elm,
And a blighted earth to till
With a broken hoe.


David Gorsline said...

Powerful imagery in the poem.

Anonymous said...

Criminalistics eventually linked Sacco's gun to the crime, though the circumstances surrounding the case are still controversial.