The World Turned Upside Down

zapataguitar.jpgThanks to Leon Rosselson for providing material to compile this post!

Perhaps the best song written about enclosures and struggles for commons. It talks about the struggles of the ”Diggers” who reclaimed the king’s land as a commons for all. It was composed by Leon Rosselson in 1975, taken into the charts in 1985 by Billy Bragg and also performed by Dick Gaughan, Chumbawamba and Attila the Stockbroker among others (according to Wikipedia, although I think that Chumbawamba’s version is a late XIX century song with the same title). To put this song in the context of other “Digger” songs check here.

The song, “The World Turned Upside Down,” by English folksinger Leon Rosselson, weaves many of Gerrard Winstanley’s own words into the lyrics. Gerrard Winstanley (1609 - September 10, 1676) was an English Protestant religious reformer and political activist during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. He was aligned with the group known as the True Levellers for their beliefs, based upon Christian communism, and as the Diggers for their actions because they took over public lands and dug them over to plant crops.

Click play to hear:

1) Leon Rosselson presentation of the song at a radio show on www.radiobritfolk.co.uk.

2) The song itself, sang by the author

For the lirics and some quotes from Gerrard Winstanley writings click

In 1649
To St George’s Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed
Reclaiming what was theirs

‘We come in peace’ they said
‘To dig and sow
We come to work the land in common
And to make the waste land grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it can be
A common treasury for all

‘The sin of property
We do disdain
No one has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Rise up at their command

‘They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feeds the rich
While poor men starve

‘We work, we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to masters
Or pay rent to the lords
We are free men
Though we are poor’
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed -
Only the vision lingers on

‘You poor take courage
You rich take care
The earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace’-
The order came to cut them down

Leon Rosselson

Some quotes from Gerrard Winstanley’s work

‘Was the earth made to preserve a few covetous proud men to live at ease and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the Earth from others that these may beg and starve in a fruitful land; or was it made to preserve all her children?’ (THE NEW LAW OF RIGHTEOUSNESS)

‘Action is the life of all and if thou dost not act thou dost nothing.’ (A WATCHWORD TO THE CITY OF LONDON AND THE ARMIE)

‘We must neither buy nor sell …Money must not any longer be the great god that hedges in some and hedges out others, … for after our work of the Earthly Community is advanced, we must make use of gold and silver as we do of other metals but not to buy or sell.’ (DECLARATION FROM THE POOR OPPRESSED PEOPLE OF ENGLAND)

‘All men have stood for freedom …and those of the richer sort of you that see it are ashamed and afraid to own it because it comes clothed in a clownish garment… Freedom is the man that will turn the world upside down, therefore no wonder he hath enemies.’
(A WATCHWORD TO THE CITY OF LONDON)

‘You dust of the earth that are trod underfoot, you poor people that make both scholars and rich men your oppressors by your labours, take notice of your privilege.’(A WATCHWORD TO THE CITY OF LONDON)

‘True religion and undefiled is this, To make restitution of the Earth which hath been taken and held from the common people by the power of conquests formerly and so set the oppressed free.’ (A NEW YEAR’S GIFT FOR THE PARLIAMENT AND THE ARMIE)

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