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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleLabouring man Music Note (Music Score Available)
Roud No.1156
Collected FromUnknown
Collected ByHill, Geoffry
Alternative Title
TuneHill, Geoffrey
Source Primary
Source SecondaryHill, Geoffry: Wiltshire folk songs and carols, 1898
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

You Englishmen of each degree,
A moment listen unto me.
To please you all I do intend,
With these few lines I'm going to pen.
From day to day you all may see,
The poor are frowned on by degree.
By them, you know, who never can,
Do without the labouring man.


Now let England do the best she can,
She can't do without the labouring man.
Old England always leads the van,
But never without the labouring man.

Verse 2

In former days you all do know,
A poor man cheerful used to go.
Neat and clean upon my life,
With his children and his wife.
And for his labour it was said,
A fair day's wages he was paid.


Verse 3

When Bonaparte and Nelson too,
And Wellington at Waterloo.
Were fighting both by land and sea,
The poor man gained the victory.
Their hearts were cast in honour's mould,
The soldiers and sailors bold.


Verse 4

Now, if wars do rise again,
And England be in want of men.
They'll have to search the country round,
To find the lads that plough the ground.
Who harrow the ground and till the wheat,
And every danger boldly meet.

Print Song Lyrics
Hill, Geoffrey: 'This song comes from the same village as the former, and was sung by the same man.

It may surprise many to be told that there is a class of Englishmen so intensely patriotic as the farm labourer; and we can see the reason for their patriotism when we remember that their fathers fought for England, not by bearing an increased load of taxation, but with their own hands. The richer classes may well be patriotic, for their sons son by war promotion and reputation. But the labouring class won nothing; they only knew that they had met the French in fair fight and had beaten them. This, with their old English love of fighting, was enough; they loved England not for what England had done for them, but for what they had borne for England; if ever there was an unselfish love it was theirs. But if his love was unselfish, the English labourer was well aware at what cost he had proved it. Napier, in his Peninsular War, tells us that it was not English generalship that beat the French, but the doggedness of the English infantry; and if this fact was apparent to Napier, it was equally apparent to the men who had shewn the doggedness. How well then can we understand the bitterness with which Wellington's troops on their return from the Peninsular viewed the state of things then existing in England! They say that Protection and the French War had so raised the price of bread, that the men and women of their own class were almost starving; and they soon found that they themselves had to bear the pinch of poverty. Little wonder was it that men who knew that they had given England her proud position among the nations of Europe at the risk of their own lives, expressed themselves bitterly and extravagantly at the treatment which they received at the hands of their countrymen.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2010.

Music Score

Score for Labouring man

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