In Percy Shelleyâ€™s â€œA Song: â€™Men of England,â€™â€ one can see Shellyâ€™s call for a revolution to reform the social injustice that is taking place all across England. The ideas expressed in this poem are very similar to those in Shelleyâ€™s â€œEngland in 1819.â€ Both poems attempt to convince the readers to rise up from their pitiful condition and overthrow the tyrants who are causing them so much grief.
In â€œâ€™Men of England,â€™â€, Shelley is addressing the working class of England; those who were farmers and who worked the land for their rich landowners. In the first three stanzas, he asks these men why they bother to work for tyrants and ungrateful lords:
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?…
Wherefore feed and clothe and save…
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweatâ€“nay, drink your blood?
Shelley is asking them why they work so hard all of their lives to please lords who do not care for them; who would not hesitate to drain their sweat or drink their blood. He is asking the â€œworker bees of Englandâ€ why they make weapons and chains that the landowners simply use to destroy all they have accomplished. Shelley is presenting an argument in support of a worker revolution, and he is listing all of the reasons for such a revolt in the beginning of this poem. England is in the midst of civil unrest and economic depression after the Napoleonic Wars, and Shelley hopes that this poem will inspire the middle class of England to rise up and change the social conditions of the time.
In the next three stanzas of the poem, Shelley asks the workers what they receive for all of their hard work, and he proposes a solution that might bring them out of their wretched state. He wants to know if these workers have â€œleisure, comfort, calm, shelter, food, or any love,â€ from their masters as a reward for all of their hard work. If thy donâ€™t receive any good benefits from the job, then Shelley wants to know what they could possibly buy or receive from all of their pain and suffering.
Shelley then proceeds to show the men of England examples of how they are robbed of everything that they make for their lords:
The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.
Everything that these men make, someone else takes and uses it for their own benefit. In return, the workers get pain and fear, and Shelley is urging them with these examples to rise up and change their condition.
In the next stanza, Shelley begins to offer solutions to the problems of the working class. He tells everyone that whenever they make something or find something profitable, he tells them to keep it away from the tyrant, impostor, and idle lord. He wants everyone to hold on to what they have and not give it to those who are too lazy to work for it themselves. In the last line of the third stanza, Shelley tells the men to â€œForge armsâ€“in your defence to bear.â€ Here, he is calling for some sort of retaliation or attack against those who have made life miserable for others. Shelley is officially calling for a revolt against the aristocracy by the hordes of working english men across the land. The blueâ€“collar crowd is tired of being treated like dirt and this poem is their anthem, their cause, and their motivation to fight the Euroâ€“trash who are driving their lives into the ground. This was Shelleyâ€™s purpose from the beginning, to convince the average Joe that there is a perfectly good reason to start a revolution and fight those who treat you poorly.
In â€œEngland in 1819,â€ Shelley calls for another revolt against those who drain the life blood out of every working man and woman in society. He uses the same method as in the first poem to try and convince the working man that this the correct and necessary thing to do. Shelley presents the readers with images of the insane King leading his army against a group of peaceful protesters. He shows the people the image of a country that is dying because of aristocratic leeches who attack their own people and rob them of their freedom. By using powerful and meaningful adjectives, similes, and metaphors, Shelley convinces his people that the only solution is to start a revolution against those blind and insensitive despots who are dragging England through the mud and kicking the pathetic and wretched citizens into the ground:
From which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.
Shelley says that their only hope is to revive a â€œPhantomâ€ that will come from nowhere and overthrow the insolent and lifeâ€“depriving government. Only after this happens will the true glory of England and its working class shine above all the rest.
This is how Shelley uses his poetry to convince the people of England to rise above its government and to change the conditions that they live in. Through the use of powerful language and meaningful arguments, Shelley convinces them that it is the right thing to do.