Coal Mining Tradition: Who Are They? (Low Bitrate Version)

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About this Poem

Who Are They? is a poem that describes what it's like to be a coal miner and the types of experiences they have while working underground. The poem looks at the dangerous and physically demanding nature of the job and also sheds light on the personalities of miners and their relationships with one another.

Who Are They? Al Provoe. John C. O'Donnell Tape Collection. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

About the Artist

Al Provoe was employed at Caledonia Mine No. 4 from 1949 until 1954. He was a mining poet and one of the original members of The Men of the Deeps.

Text

Who are they who travel deep 'neath ocean floors
That cloak the glistening seams,

To leave behind each day a sunken shaft
Where sunlight never beams?

Who are they with shouldered lamps who crouch below
The saggy roof, on rakes that hurry down,

Riding low 'neath pressured stone
That oft times strike the crown?

Who are they who travel roads that need no picket fence,
Midst shiny fields where leafy fossils bloom,

And sometimes dust and gas
Can spell your doom?

Who are they with muscled backs, bared to cool the brow,
Who move this thermal stuff that warms

The ones way up above,
In mansions rich and college dorms?

Who are they who sweat and swear, then pause
To share the bread within the can and laugh again -

Down there they lead another life,
And friendship shall remain?

Who are they who poke and rile
And sing out names with humour bold,

Then load and chew and take the guff?
To ones above these tales are never told.

Who are they who lead the way when rescue is in store
Where men are trapped? and loving families weep

As torches fade and lamps go dim
And darkness slowly creeps.

Who are they who fought to break the company chain
And never shied when days were lean

To gain this way of life?
For now the fields are green.