By Peter Bellamy. From The Transports (1977).
O the times they are hard and the wages are poor
None of us poor fellows has money in store
So how can a good man keep the wolf from the door?
Poor fellows, we all will go down:
When the work is scarce, tell me, how can we eat?
How can we afford to buy shoes for our feet,
How can we get clothing to keep off the sleet?
Poor fellows, we might as well drown.
If we could find labour we'd never complain:
We'd work well for a master his favour to gain,
We'd be honest and faithful with never a stain
But, poor fellows, how will we survive?
We could plough the good land, we could fish the salt sea
We could work in the woodland a-felling of trees
But when only the breath of our bodies is free,
Poor fellows, can we stay alive?
A man that is single is free of all care:
He can soon leave a district if no work be there
There's no manner of hardship that he cannot bear
Poor fellows, if he is alone;
But a man with a family, his hands they are tied
He must look to their comfort or lose all his pride
He can't wander away but must stay by their side,
Poor fellow, and maintain his home.
A man that is willing can't understand why
He can find no employment how hard he may try
And it break his poor heart for to see his wife cry
So poor fellow, he'll do what he can;
And a man that is desperate and can't find a job
He will not be contented to sit home and sob:
Be he never so honest, he'll turn out and rob,
Poor fellow, to prove he's a man.
When a good man turns robber, you know it's a shame
He brings scorn and dishonour on his family name
But in pitiful straits, tell me, who is to blame?
Poor fellow, you know he must try;
So let's hope that these hard times will soon pass away
And to our sweet saviour we earnestly pray
That this dark cloudy morn will turn glorious day
Poor fellows, some time ere we die.