Modern Street Ballads

We are all familiar with the carefully got up mendicants who infest the streets of London, with their mournful howls—how that they are “Frozen-out gardeners,” or “Have got no work to do,” etc., etc.; and in the early part of the century they were more numerous than now, as the police were not so efficient. One sample of this style of ballad must suffice.


Give attention awhile to my rhymes,
Good people of every degree,
I assure you these critical times
Have reduced me to great poverty.
I’m a tradesman reduced to distress,
Dame Fortune on me long has frown’d,
And that is the cause, I confess,
Which compels me to roam up and down.

Then good people attend to my rhymes,
And pity a tradesman reduced;
For appealing to you in these times,
I submissively hope you’ll excuse.

I once did in happiness dwell,
With my family around me, at home;
And little, (the truth I will tell)
Did I think I’d have cause for to roam.
But misfortune, she owed me a grudge,
And entered in my Cottage door,
And caused me in sorrow to mourn,
And my misery long to deplore.

Mechanics are now at a stand,
And trade, in all quarters, is bad,
They’re complaining all over the land,
And their children are hungry and sad.
Travel Britain wherever you will,
You may behold everything dead,
The tradesman are all standing still,
And their children are crying for bread.

My family now weep with distress,
With cold and with hunger they cry,
Which grieves me to see, I confess,
No food, nor employment have I.
The Weather is cold and severe,
And I do in sorrow lament;
I have no food for my Children dear,
And my goods are all taken for rent.

For a tradesman reduced, heave a sigh,
Who in sorrow and agony grieve,
And, good Christians, as you pass him by,
With a little, pray, do him relieve.
A little you never will miss,
To one who in sorrow complain,
And our heavenly Father above,
The same will repay you again.

Oh, you that distress never knew,
May your breast such affliction ne’er feel,
The sufferings that I do endure,
I cannot to you half reveal.
For subsistence my clothes I have sold,
I wander to look for a friend,
So now my sad troubles are told,
And my tale I am going to end.

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