In H. Heine’s poem “The Silesian Weavers” he writes “Their gloom-enveloped eyes are tearless, They sit at the spinning wheel, snarling cheerless: “Germany, we weave your funeral shroud, A threefold curse be within it endowed-We’re weaving, we’re weaving!” This is of course in reference to the awful conditions for factory workers during the Industrial Revolution. This poem pertains to the workers in Silesia, a Prussian Province.
This stanza in the poem is more impactful when taking into account the other two readings. Even though Heine’s poem is about Silesia, it could be about any large factory. This is not an overreaction to one factory with poor conditions. Every factory had these issues. Every worker sat “at the spinning wheel, snarling cheerless”. The workers are clearly angry with the factory, angry with the new life. This is not just obvious because the poem was inspired by an 1844 protest but the language. When writing “A threefold curse be within it endowed” Heine was showing this anger. The workers are angry about the money and hours because of these conditions. It is much easier to like your job when the conditions are acceptable, but 19th century factories were certainly not acceptable. The last line of the first stanza is also very telling. By using the exclamation point, Heine is implying that “We’re weaving, we’re weaving!” is something the workers had to say often, in order to show the bosses they we’re still working. However if they had to show they we’re working then how much effort were the putting into the work?
Not only were the workers subjected to inhumane working conditions, low wages and unbearable hours, but they were also not provided with any housing or accommodations by their employers. In this respect, Oastler asserts that it might even be better to be actually enslaved, because many of the conditions would remain constant but the workers would then at least be provided with accommodations, however minimal, by their employers or masters.
These type of conditions were exactly why communism had a massive increase in support during the 1840’s and 50’s. A perfect example of this is the German Revolution of 1848, where workers were fed up with their work, and demanded change.
Heine’s poem speaks directly about workers rights and conditions, and how they are not suitable. The workers are oppressed by the rich and Heine says that one day there must be a change in these conditions.