Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Nine Pound Hammer: a portrait

From a foundry in Manchester a nine-pound hammer came; John Bull flung it onto a ship at the Liverpool docks.

Jimmy-boy picked up the tool at a warehouse in Baltimore, and he wielded it all the way up to West Virginia.

John Henry grabbed the thing and beat out nine tons of number nine coal, nine thousand times.

Nine million times, Johnny drove a spike in the ground, knockin out a railroad with his nine-pounder to Chicago all the from Baltimore.

Then along came nine thousand navvies swingin their way from St. Louis to Seattle; they went a-beatin out a double ribbon of blue steel to carry America from across its heartland to Pacific shore, all the way from Baltimore.

Jackie tossed the nine-pound hammer onto a freighter that sailed out beneath the golden gate. It landed on a Shanghai dock, went from there to Singapore, and on and on to Bangalore, all the way from Baltimore.

But choppin' out between sea and sea,
rang a blue new tune from somewhere in Kentucky;
them good ole boys came pickin out a tune
from Paducah to Prague and and on to Pashtun:
a sound the world had never heard before
all the way in silvered steel, strung out through Baltimore.

Nine Pound Hammer

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