Peter Lamborn Wilson
The work we are going about is this, to dig up Georges Hill and the waste grounds thereabouts, and to sow corn, and to eat our bread together by the sweat of our brows.
And the First Reason is this, that we may work in righteousness, and lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury for All, both rich and poor. That everyone that is born of the land may be fed by the Earth and his Mother that brought him forth, according to the Reason that Rules in the Creation.
— Gerrard Winstanley, the Digger
“The True Levellers Standard Advanced,” April 26, 1649
Brothers of the plow, The power is with you;
The world in expectation waits For action prompt and true,
Oppression stalks abroad, Monopolies abound;
Their giant hands already clutch The tillers of the ground.
Awake, then, awake! the great world must be fed,
And heaven gives the power to the hand that holds the bread.
— Geo. F. Root,
“The Hand That Holds The Bread”
Grange Melodies (Philadelphia, 1905)
photo of Peter Lamborn Wilson reading on stage.
One summer day in Colorado some years ago, the poet Reed Bye drove me around to look at a few of the still-standing Grange Halls of Boulder County. Plain wood-frame structures, simple in an almost Amish or Shaker manner (American Zen) and almost barn-like, these rural outposts of farm culture have been overtaken by the county’s insane rate of “development.” The farms that once surrounded the Grange Halls have been sold and subdivided — the Denver gentry have built huge “trophy homes,” strip malls, defense and biomutagenic labs, New Age supermarkets, etc., etc. The few horses and bewildered cows that still stand around in the shrinking “open spaces” appear to be waiting for the End. A thick but slightly luminous atmosphere of nostalgia hangs over the lonely halls baking in the sunlight.
Ever since childhood Sunday afternoon excursions in the fifties, I’ve been noticing Grange Halls in little American towns and admiring them. The bigger halls sometimes resemble charming Victorian churches — “carpenter gothic” — or firehouses. Not many of them appear to be still active or owned by the Grange. In Rosendale, a town near where I live in Upstate New York, the slightly ornate but decaying Grange Hall was saved by artists but tragically burned down several years ago.