Hollow

Work Life Out To Keep Life In

Oh the working man as you can see
That is what he was born to be
Married to the working wife
That is what she'll be all her life
Never lived beyond their means
Nor sought assistance from their friends
Yet day and night through thick and thin
They work life out just to keep life in

No matter friends what else befalls
The poor folk they must work or fall
Through frost and snow through sleet and wind
They work life out just to keep life in

Do you see the women who make the gowns
For those in other parts of town
It's a site most sorrowful to see
And I'm sure with me you will agree:
Meagre is our daily pay
To feed and clad a family with
She's overworked, she's tired and thin
She works life out just to keep life in

Oh mischief mine, where do you roam?
When reason called you weren't at home
If you take cheese from off the rat
Is he then free to hunt the cat?
If free from union's free from dues
Are you free from choice or free to choose?
Or free as any bird blown by the wind
To work life out just to keep life in

Trad with additional words by Martin Carthy, arr. T Ashworth

Crispin's Day

The axle tree still bedded in the mire
This trilling in the blood
The call comes down the wire: “it’s time to leave”
Did you hear what the thunder said?
Collect your things, get out of here
The road’s already pulling at your feet
Over-shoulder glances
Up the path of second chances
And good intentions rusty with neglect
My overcoat is soaking
As the morning comes in smoking
Stubbing out a final cigarette

And time will tell the fortunate ones
Who crawl through the mud to a day in the sun

First light we’ll be moving
Rushing headlong to the future
Unreal city lost beyond the fog of war
A spectre in the distance
As we swing the focus inward
Each man takes the moment squarely on the jaw
A timebomb of reprisals
The only sign of our arrival
A scattering of ashes on the floor
And a hangover that passes
Like the sun through broken glasses
Wondering what the hell has all of this been for

Inertia spent and stalling
While the bloody rain keeps falling
Failing with a stutter and a start
A tally no-one counted
New-cut valleys turn to mountains
And Crispin’s day it came and went unmarked
No knight in shining armour
But the builder and the farmer
And the boy behind the counter in a shop
A list read out in silence
Since the milk of human kindness
Has run out to the final, bitter drop

An hour since dawn has broken
And not a man has spoken
The silence is no more than you’d expect
A cortege or an escort
And not a face looks distraught
Cos the truth is: we’ve all done things we regret
A lost game at the outset
The conclusion of the inquest:
That civil blood makes civil hands unclean
But the mother holds the photo
Of a boy not coming home
And all she has is all that might have been

And time will tell the fortunate ones
Who crawl through the mud to a day in the sun
When the battle’s lost and won
Who’ll crawl through the mud to a day in the sun?

© T Ashworth 2017

Hollow

When I was a young man
I blamed my tools
And bought and sold from day to day
So freely
When I was a young man
I blamed my tools
And bought and sold from day to day
So free

And the dreams I taught my sons to dream
They were smaller than I meant
The horizon’s so much nearer when
You kneel to pay the rent

When I was a young man
I drew straight lines
And crossed the border day to day
So freely
When I was a young man
I drew straight lines
And crossed the border day to day
So free

And the dreams I taught my sons to dream
Were a compromise at best
The horizon’s so much nearer when
You kneel to pay the rent

When I was a young man
I paid no mind
And played the numbers day to day
So freely
When I was a young man
I paid no mind
And played the numbers day to day
So free

And the dreams I taught my sons to dream
They were smaller than I meant
The horizon’s so much nearer when
You kneel to pay the rent
And the dreams I taught my sons to dream
Were the means but not the end
The horizon’s so much nearer when
You kneel to pay the rent

© T Ashworth 2018

High Germany

Oh Polly love, oh Polly
The rout has now begun
And we must go a-marching
To the beating of the drum
Go dress yourself all in your best and
Come along with me
I’ll take you to the war, my love, in high Germany

Oh Willy love, oh Willy
Come listen what I say:
My feet they are so tender
I cannot march away
And besides my dearest Willy
I am with child by thee
Not fitted for the war, my love, in high Germany

I’ll buy for you a horse, my love
And on it you shall ride
And all of my delight will be
To ride there by your side
We’ll stop at every ale-house
And drink when we are dry
Be true to one another and get married, by and by

Oh cursed be the cruel wars
That ever they may rise
And out of merry England
Press many men like mine
They took my true love from me
Likewise my brothers three
Sent them to the way, my love, in high Germany

My friends I do not value
Nor foes I do not fear
Since my love has left me
I wander far and near
And when my baby it is born
And smiling on my knee
I’ll think of lovely Willy, in high Germany


Trad, arr T Ashworth