Modern Street Ballads

This is the sort of stuff that was disseminated among the people at the time of agitation for “the Charter,” and, looking at the convulsion of 1848, which shook Europe to its centre, it speaks volumes for the good sense of the lower classes that they were not stirred up to acts of violence by such inflammatory rubbish as the following.



Music by John Lowry. This song can also be sung to the air of “The Monks of Old.”

We plough and sow—we’re so very, very low
      That we delve in the dirty clay,
Till we bless the plain—with the golden grain,
      And the vale with the fragrant hay.
Our place we know,—we’re so very low,
      ’Tis down at the landlord’s feet:
We’re not too low—the bread to grow,
      But too low the bread to eat.*

Down, down we go,—we’re so very low,
      To the hell of the deep sunk mines,
But we gather the proudest gems that glow,
      When the crown of a despot shines.
And whenever he lacks—upon our backs
      Fresh loads he deigns to lay:
We’re far too low to vote the tax,
      But not too low to pay.

We’re low—we’re low—mere rabble, we know,
      But, at our plastic power,
The mould at the lordling’s feet will grow
      Into palace and church and tower.
Then prostrate fall—in the rich man’s hate,
      And cringe at the rich man’s door;
We’re not too low to build the wall,
      But too low to tread the floor.

We’re low—we’re low—we’re very very low,
      Yet from our fingers glide
The silken flow—and the robes that glow
      Round the limbs of the sons of pride.
And what we get—and what we give—
      We know, and we know our share;
We’re not too low the cloth to weave,
      But too low the Cloth to wear!

We’re low—we’re low—we’re very very low,
      And yet when the trumpets ring,
The thrust of a poor man’s arm will go
      Thro’ the heart of the proudest King.
We’re low—we’re low—our place we know,
      We’re only the rank and file,
We’re not too low—to kill the foe,
      But too low to touch the spoil.

* Repeat as chorus last two lines of each verse.

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