She also wrote an extensive political analysis of the US workers’ movement and its mass actions, from the 1860s to 1914, from the Knights of Labor to the Industrial Workers of the World. See here. This was part of a book on mass action in general.
The theme of Henriette Roland Holst’s poem is the possibility that the workers in the USA may defeat capitalism, maybe before workers in Europe would succeed in that.
The poem is a sonnet without a title. As far as I know, it has never been translated into English. So, probably, it never reached the workers of the United States which it is about. Except maybe a minority of the small minority among them who can read Dutch.
This is my English translation from the Dutch original text of the poem, as published in Henriette Roland Holst’s poetry book, Opwaartsche Wegen (Ways Up), second edition, 1914, page 14:
America, who leans across the water
threat’ning the old proud masters of Europe,
our eyes, they fill themselves with dawning hope
for your so far fair face, o you, young Mother,
shining between sea mist as baptism baby behind veil.
Hear, growling is starting in the crater
of her deep eye; and through her flanks goes, seconds later
tempestuous breathing though her walk seems frail.
These old coasts wait for you to feed
us with your news: “my millions of wage-slaves
are rising up”. – Their scream oppressors keeps at bay.
Oh, that shoots like a star across the waves
brightly into our heart! We ask, take, like before, the lead
and free us, free us, USA.
The last two lines of the sonnet refer to the late eighteenth century, when the American revolution became an inspration for the French revolution and other change in Europe. So, tough luck for neo-conservatives and “liberal hawks” who may misread those lines in the poem as in any way related to their pet theme of “humanitarian imperialism“. There is a very big difference between capitalist imperialism on the one hand, and on the other hand, workers overthrowing capitalist imperialism, setting examples to each other across the world, as in Henriette Roland Holst’s poem.
Today, over a hundred years after the poem was written, it seems too optimistic in the short and middle long term.
Taking a more long-term view, maybe the plans this year of dock workers in the USA for a strike on May Day against the war in Iraq might be a start …
Here is the Dutch original text of the poem:
Amerika, die leunt over het water
dreigend de trotsche meesters van Euroop,
onze oogen gaan vol dagende hoop
naar uw schoon ver gelaat, o jonge Mater,
dat tussen zeedamp schittert als een doop-
kind tussen sluiers. Hoor, het gromt in den krater
van haar diep oog; en door haar flanken gaat er
onstuimige adem in zwoegenden loop.
Aan oude kusten wachten we op die tijding
van u: “mijn millioenen proletaren
staan op”. – Hun schreeuw dreunt in de luchten na.
O dat schiet als een ster over de baren
hel in ons hart! Neem weer, als eens, de leiding
en maak ons vrij, Amerika.
- Where can young people go for refuge? (Open letter to the Principle and Governors of Life Learning Academy, San Francisco) (beyondproject.wordpress.com)
- Poets dot org (loiselden.com)
- A poem a day for December, Poem 29 (postalice.wordpress.com)
- Current Project (lenxbob.wordpress.com)