Modern Street Ballads


Come all you bold Britons, where’er you may be,
I pray give attention, and listen to me,
There once was good times, but they’re gone by complete,
For a poor man lives now on Eight Shillings a week.

Such times in old England there never was seen,
As the present ones now; but much better have been,
A poor man’s condemned, and looked on as a thief,
And compelled to work hard on Eight Shillings a week.

Our venerable fathers remember the year,
When a man earned three shillings a day, and his beer.
He then could live well, keep his family neat,
But now he must work for Eight Shillings a week.

The Nobs of “Old England,” of shameful renown,
Are striving to crush a poor man to the ground,
They’ll beat down their wages and starve them complete,
And make them work hard for Eight Shillings a week.

A poor man to labour (believe me ’tis so),
To maintain his family is willing to go
Either hedging, or ditching, to plough, or to reap,
But how does he live on Eight Shillings a week.

In the reign of old George, as you all understand,
Here then was contentment throughout the whole land,
Each poor man could live, and get plenty to eat,
But now he must pine on Eight Shillings a week.

So now to conclude and finish my song,
May the times be much better, before it is long,
May every labourer be able to keep
His children and wife on Twelve Shillings a week.

* The writer of this makes no mention of the advantages the labourer had in those days, low rent, meal, skim milk, etc., and constant work, wet or fine. Money then had more purchasing power, and eight shillings was worth at least fifteen of the present currency. Now, thanks to Mr. Joseph Arch and other agitators, the agricultural labourer has, presumably, higher wages, but he has higher rent to pay, his privileges are curtailed or annulled, and he has lost the sympathy of his employer. Paid by the hour, he is discharged as soon as it comes on to rain hard, instead of, as in the old days, being paid for a whole day, even if he only worked part of it.

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