Text

Eight Hours

The song “Eight Hours” was first published in musical form in 1878. The song’s lyrics were written by I.G. Blanchard, and the music was written by Rev. Jesse H. Jones. 
Author
I.G. Blanchard
Grade Level

We mean to make things over,
We are tired of toil for naught
With but bare enough to live upon
And ne'er an hour for thought.
We want to feel the sunshine
And we want to smell the flow'rs
 We are sure that God has willed it
And we mean to have eight hours;
We're summoning our forces
From the shipyard, shop and mill
 
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

The beasts that graze the hillside,
And the birds that wander free,
In the life that God has meted,
Have a better life than we.
Oh, hands and hearts are weary,
And homes are heavy with dole;
If our life's to be filled with drudg'ry,
What need of a human soul.
 Shout, shout the lusty rally,
From shipyard, shop, and mill.
 
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

The voice of God within us
Is calling us to stand
 Erect as is becoming
To the work of His right hand.
Should he, to whom the Maker
His glorious image gave,
The meanest of His creatures crouch,
A bread-and-butter slave?
Let the shout ring down the valleys
And echo from every hill .

Ye deem they're [sic] feeble voices
That are raised in labor's cause,
But bethink ye of the torrent,
And the wild tornado's laws.
We say not toil's uprising
In terror's shape will come,
Yet the world were wise to listen
To the monetary hum.
Soon, soon the deep toned rally
Shall all the nations thrill.
 
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

From factories and workshops
In long and weary lines,
From all the sweltering forges,
And from out the sunless mines,
Wherever toil is wasting
The force of life to live
There the bent and battered armies
Come to claim what God doth give
And the blazon on the banner
Doth with hope the nation fill:

Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

Hurrah, hurrah for labor,
For it shall arise in might
It has filled the world with plenty,
It shall fill the world with light
Hurrah, hurrah for labor,
It is mustering all its powers
And shall march along to victory
With the banner of Eight Hours.
Shout, shout the echoing rally
Till all the welkin thrill.

Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

Source
This text is in the public domain.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    Reread the first stanza of the song.
    In line two, the writer says “we are tired of toil for naught.” Based on the context of the line, what does “naught”
    mean?
    Answer
    “Naught” means “nothing.”
  2. Question
    Name the different kinds of labor mentioned in the lyrics.
    Answer
    Shipyards, mills, shops, factories, workshops, forges and mines
  3. Question
    The author believes that some animals live an even better life than workers. Why do you think he says that? Do
    you think labor conditions are as severely bad today?
    Answer
    Answers will vary.
  4. Question
    What is the song’s refrain?
    Answer
    “8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what you will”
  5. Question
    The author uses the pronoun “we” throughout the lyrics. To whom is he referring? Be specific.
    Answer
    He is referring to workers and laborers all around the world. In particular, he mentions shipyards, mills, factories, workshops, forges and mines.
  6. Question
    Examine the song’s refrain. How is the idea of time used to measure quality of life? What current-day practices
    and realities do we take for granted as illustrated in these lyrics?
    Answer
    Answers will vary but should include the idea of an eight-hour work day and the standard recommendation that people get eight hours of sleep a night. These are things that are seen as norms today. “8 hours for what you will” refers to the need for leisure in life.
Reveal Answers
x
A map of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi with overlaid images of key state symbols and of people in community

Learning for Justice in the South

When it comes to investing in racial justice in education, we believe that the South is the best place to start. If you’re an educator, parent or caregiver, or community member living and working in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana or Mississippi, we’ll mail you a free introductory package of our resources when you join our community and subscribe to our magazine.

Learn More